Back in October when it was finally confirmed, after weeks of speculation, that Justin Timberlake would headline the Super Bowl halftime show, I wrote that it wasn’t all bad

The NFL’s ratings have been on the decline. And players continue to kneel during the national anthem. These have been the major headlines surrounding the league for months as deep divisions between owners and players and players and fans continue to dominate the discussion. THAT’s the Super Bowl Justin Timberlake is stepping into. That might be the only positive takeaway from this story?

The NFL used to be a ratings sure-thing. And, yes, many, many people still watch NFL games. But not as many as before. For the second year in a row, NFL ratings have dropped. In 2017, the ratings went down almost 10%. In 2016 it was 8%. And before you say that that’s across the board and not just the NFL, consider that the NBA’s ratings are steadily going UP. So it’s definitely a concern for the NFL. And it may be even more concerning now that the Super Bowl ratings are in. 

This year’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, two big market teams playing a competitive gave (it wasn’t a blowout, not at all), was down 7% from last year, making it the smallest audience for a Super Bowl in 9 years. Justin Timberlake’s halftime show was down even more – 9% compared to Lady Gaga’s in 2017. 

To be fair, MILLIONS of people watched JT be average on Sunday night. But the point here is that he was average as part of something that’s on the downswing. He’s not part of something that’s trending positively. He was part of something greater that’s on the decline. Which means Justin Timberlake cannot claim to have been part of something that was a runaway success. Not when most headlines about the Super Bowl and its ratings involve the words “slip”, “slump”, and “tumble”. 

He can push aside the sh-tty reviews of his album and claim bias. He can ignore Twitter and other social media snark and call it the work of losers and haters. But these people care about numbers. They are never impervious to numbers. By the numbers then, Justin Timberlake’s Super Bowl halftime show was not a win.