5 Things You Never Knew About the Super Bowl Halftime Show

The Super Bowl is the most-watched television event in the United States. In 2018, more than 100 million people tuned in to watch the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the New England Patriots in one of the biggest upsets of all time. But not all 100 million people love football — many of them watch to see the hilarious commercials, while many are only focused on the iconic halftime show. Every year, one performer or group (occasionally more than one) is selected to take the stage during halftime. Here are five things you probably didn’t know about the Super Bowl halftime show.

Super Bowl halftime show
Lady Gaga performs during the 2017 Super Bowl halftime show. | Patrick Smith/Getty Images

1. The performers are not actually paid

The NFL does not pay anyone to perform at the halftime show. Over the past few decades, it’s been considered an honor to be invited to perform. Plus, it gives the singer or group major publicity for the next few months. Missy Elliott is the perfect example. Although she doesn’t make much music anymore, when she appeared at the halftime show with Katy Perry, her song sales soared by 282% in the week following the show. The attention can be positive or negative depending on the performance, of course, but no publicity is bad publicity, right?

2. Famous pop/rock stars only started performing in the 1990s

Although the halftime show got its start 1967, it’s not at all what it used to be. The first few shows were centered around university marching bands — the first-ever show was played by the University of Arizona and Grambling State marching bands. Over the years, the shows became more theatrical, sometimes featuring certain themes. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the nation’s biggest performers began to take the stage.

3. You can thank Michael Jackson for today’s halftime shows

Speaking of pop icons taking the stage, you can thank Michael Jackson for the way the halftime show is today. Jackson was invited to perform on the show in 1993, and it was the first time a halftime show actually improved the game’s ratings. Once Jackson’s performance was deemed a success, other stars were invited back the following year, and the show began to take shape into what it is today. Had Jackson’s performance not gone over well, there’s no telling what the show might look like these days.

4. … And you can thank Janet Jackson for YouTube

No one can ever forget Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction during her 2004 Super Bowl performance with Justin Timberlake. The founders of YouTube will never forget it, either. Cofounders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim got the idea to invent the popular website when they had trouble finding videos of Jackson’s slip up on the Internet. They also noted they couldn’t find video of the tsunamis in Asia, either, and the two events sparked an idea that they should create a website where people can watch publicly posted videos about events.

5. More people tune in for the halftime show than the actual game

It’s been less than 30 years since Michael Jackson boosted ratings with his halftime show performance. But today, more people tune in for the halftime show than the actual game. The 2015 Super Bowl was watch by 114.4 million people — the most-watched televised event in television history. But Katy Perry’s halftime show, which featured the infamous Left Shark, garnered more than 120 million viewers. The same thing happened in 2017, when 111 million people tuned in for the Super Bowl — but more than 117 million tuned in to watch Lady Gaga perform at halftime.