No, Saints fans, you CAN’T change national TV ratings by boycotting the Super Bowl. But we know you’ll try

New Orleans Saints fans are not watching the Super Bowl. And they hope you won’t either.

After an eye-popping no-call in the NFC Championship dashed the team’s hopes of a trip to the big game, the Who Dat Nation called for a boycott Sunday to send league bigwigs a message.

“In order for the NFL to feel the boycott of not watching the Super Bowl you must put all the TV’s in your house on, but not on the Super Bowl,” reads a fleur de lis-adorned meme making the rounds on social media. “If your TV’s are just off, it doesn’t register against it.”

But as much as a collective snub might salve Saints fans’ sense of justice, that strategy almost certainly won’t dash viewership numbers — for two key reasons.

First, the size of a TV audience isn’t determined by counting what’s on every single screen in the country at a given moment. It’s measured through Nielsen ratings, which estimate the overall audience based on what about 40,000 so-called “Nielsen families” — about 100,000 viewers — are watching. So, unless Saints fans comprise a disproportionate chunk of that subset, their preferences will hardly register.

Second, the New Orleans market is tiny, with only about 624,000 of the county’s 110 million “TV homes,” according to The Nielsen Company. Even expanding to cover Saints strongholds from Baton Rouge to the Florida Panhandle doesn’t boost the numbers much.

“Their focus is on top 25 markets in the nation; the New Orleans market is the 50th,” said Jun Heo, an assistant professor of digital advertising at Louisiana State University. “The impact would be less than 1%.”

As for putting something other than the Super Bowl on every set in sight, the result would have more to do with the ways broadcasters and advertisers parse the data and probably wouldn’t move either needle much, said Mary Blue, director of Tulane University’s Digital Media Production program.

‘They’d have a parade’

All that said, the force of a TV boycott might not rest only with New Orleans. A disputed officiating decision during the AFC Championship infuriated Kansas City Chiefs fans, and plenty of football aficionados across the country have been irked by both calls, Blue said.

“It seems like people in other parts of the country are also going to tune it out,” she said, counting her college roommate in Wisconsin among them.

Meantime, a TV boycott along the Gulf Coast would undoubtedly tip the scales locally, potentially impacting the markets’ Super Bowl ad rates and — if a major dip makes national headlines — get the NFL’s attention.

Indeed, morning anchors at the CBS affiliate broadcasting the game around New Orleans have openly prioritized their hometown team over ratings, Blue said.

“They’ve got some guilt,” she said, and have told viewers: “‘We know (the Super Bowl) is on our network, but if you’re boycotting, we understand.'”

Local advertisers also could send a message via TV airwaves. Unlike national Super Bowl ads, which can cost millions and take months to produce, local grocers and auto dealers may well be “in a hurry right now to say something about … how the Saints were robbed,” Blue said.

Saints fans, meantime, could pour their fury into social media, which get tracked similarly to TV viewing, Heo said.

“That could be one of the signs that New Orleans people are mad at” the NFL, he said, reiterating it would be tough to dent what’s routinely the most-watched telecast of the year.

Even so, Saints fans probably will still tune all their TVs to something else on Sunday, just in case.

“If we actually had an impact on the Super Bowl ratings, … I think people would have a party,” Blue said. “They’d have a parade.”

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