By James Hibberd
Updated February 04, 2013 at 05:11 AM EST

Could the Super Bowl power outage super-charge CBS’ big game ratings?

That’s one theory floating around broadcast ratings analysts tonight after CBS’ telecast of Super Bowl XLVII was dramatically interrupted by a 34-minute power outage that sent half the New Orleans Superdome into darkness.

On the surface, the outage is a huge technical blunder. Embarrassing. Time wasting. And very risky — it was basically a half-hour of dead air during the most-watched telecast of the year, hastily filled by impromptu chatter from CBS Sports reporters and a flurry of ads.

Here’s why some analysts think the power outage won’t hurt CBS’ ratings (and, in fact, might help):

1. Sports fans didn’t tune out. The Baltimore Ravens were leading the San Francisco 49ers 28-6 and it was just after halftime when the power went out. The game was far from over. Is any fan really going to walk away from the most-anticipated game of the year, a telecast where even the commercials are considered a real part of the entertainment? Plus, fans and on-air analysts immediately started to wonder aloud how the blackout might impact the game: Will giving players this unexpected break change the momentum once the game resumes? The blackout suddenly seemed like it had the potential to twist the game’s outcome and make sports history.

2. TV fans tuned in: News of the outage spread like wildfire through social media. “The power went out during the Super Bowl and they’re all just standing around? I gotta see this…” That sort of thinking could have caused a viewership spike. Normally dead-air is so lethal to a telecast because viewers get bored and change channels, but the Super Bowl is such a carefully orchestrated mega-event that watching commentators and players have to veer wildly off script is instantly fascinating. This was the obvious water-cooler moment. Who doesn’t want to see what might happen next?

As for CBS, the delay means an extra half hour of Super Bowl coverage in primetime — which is good for the network’s overall ratings in general. One expert said it was unlikely CBS was able to hustle up additional commercials during the telecast since such ad spots are tightly regulated by the NFL, but if the ratings do spike during the power outage than advertisers who had their commercials on during that time should be pleased.

While the Super Bowl’s ratings might be aided by the power outage, however, the consensus seems to be that the delay could hurt CBS’ post-game episode of Elementary. The mystery drama was pushed outside of primetime for many viewers.

“No one will leave,” summarized one industry analyst about the outage sequence. “It’s good for ratings. So what if Elementary airs late? [The Super Bowl] wasn’t going to help the show anyway and CBS keeps the money.”

Last year’s Super Bowl was the most-watched game in history with 111.3 million viewers. Tomorrow we’ll find out if Sunday’s interrupted game can top that record.

UPDATE: Super Bowl ratings are starting to come in….


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