At first the Nielsen overnights showed strong ratings for NBC’s broadcast of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl victory over the Arizona Cardinals, but short of last year’s upset of the previously undefeated New England Patriots by the New York Giants on Fox. But now that the tallies are in from all Nielsen markets, Super Bowl XLIII has pushed ahead to be the most-watched ever and second only to the final episode of “M*A*S*H” for the all-time TV average viewership title.
Now, viewing patterns are different for a sitcom than for a lengthy sporting event, so M*A*S*H still has the average viewership title, but several Super Bowls had more folks tune in for at least a few minutes. So, NBC’s Super Bowl XLIII is now the most viewed television program in US history with a total audience of 151.6 million viewers, topping the 148.3 million who watched last year’s Super Bowl on Fox.
"It’s always incredibly satisfying to amass large audiences, but this television record simply reaffirms the power of the Super Bowl and the National Football League," said Dick Ebersol, Chairman, NBC Universal Sports & Olympics.
NBC supplied the historic highlights of Nielsen ratings:
MOST VIEWED TELEVISION PROGRAMS IN HISTORY (total viewers):
1. Super Bowl XLIII 151.6 million NBC 2009
2. Super Bowl XLII 148.3 million Fox 2008
3. Super Bowl XXVIII 144.4 million CBS 2004
The total audience of 151.6 million viewers tops the previous Super Bowl record audience of 148.3 million viewers by 3.3 million viewers (Super Bowl XLII, Giants-Patriots, Note: total audience measures viewership for all or part of a broadcast).
MOST-WATCHED SUPER BOWLS (average viewers):
1. Super Bowl XLIII 98.7 million NBC 2009
2. Super Bowl XLII 97.5 million Fox 2008
3. Super Bowl XXX 94.1 million NBC 1996
4. Super Bowl XLI 93.2 million CBS 2007
5. Super Bowl XXVII 91.0 million NBC 1993
The average viewership of 98.7 million is tops in Super Bowl history, beating last year’s game by 1.2 million viewers (97.5 million).
The M*A*S*H finale in 1983 averaged 106 million viewers and total audience figures for the program are estimated to be 122 million viewers.