Make us your home page

The Feed

What you're talking about today

Super Bowl oopsie: Final Nielsen numbers show Sunday game most watched in history, after all



Image4767810g Too bad we couldn't get a flag on this play: turns out NBC's telecast of Sunday's Super Bowl in Tampa was the most watched in history, after all.

The good folks at Nielsen Media Research provided ratings today indicating that it drew more than 3-million additional viewers than originally estimated yesterday, placing the final tally at an average 98.7-million.

That final tally -- an average 98.7-million viewers, or 151.6-million people watching at least part of Sunday's telecast -- makes the Tampa game the most-watched Super Bowl in history, and beats the number of people who watched at least part of the most-watched telecast in history, the finale of popular TV comedy M*A*S*H (M*A*S*H's average viewership number, 106-million, is still tops).

NBC and Nielsen didn't have much of an explanation for the discrepancy between yesterday's figure -- an average 95-million viewers -- and today's, except to say that the ratings company's figure yesterday was an estimated number while the more current figure is a result of actually tabulating ratings from all stations carrying the game.

Tvbuymain_full Usually, such "fast national" early estimates are relatively close to the final ratings figure. But this time, the numbers varied significantly, vaulting Sunday's action-packed game beyond the New York Giants/New England Patriots game last year, which was considered the most-watched Super bowl with an average 97-million tuned in.

Given the fragmented nature of today's media landscape, this may provide evidence that the events which still draw us all in groups around the TV set remain potent cultural forces. Or maybe it just shows that Nielsen needs to work on its ratings process.

Wurtzel_alan_2  Here's a statement from Alan Wurtzel, President, Research and Media Development, NBC Universal

"Nielsen agrees that there was a problem that caused an enormous disparity in the preliminary and final numbers. They are looking into the problem.  But the final report card is accurate, this Super Bowl is the most watched program in television history."

Here is what Nielsen says:

"As is standard procedure, yesterday’s early “fast national number” was based on anticipated station coverage.  The national overnight data released this morning was generated after we verified the stations carrying the game and are a more accurate reflection of the viewers.  We are looking to see if there are any additional factors that had an impact on the difference between the early fast national ratings and national production ratings."

Click below to see NBC's release:


    151.6 Million Total Viewers & 98.7 Million Average Viewers Watch Super Bowl XLIII

    TAMPA – Feb. 3, 2009 – Super Bowl XLIII is now the most viewed television program in U.S. history with a total audience of 151.6 million viewers, according to official national ratings data released today by Nielsen Media Research.

"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. "Everyone associated with the NFL should feel a great sense of pride in this accomplishment and in providing a day of enjoyment to American families – especially those who are struggling in these difficult times."

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). NBC now owns two of the top three and three of the top five most watched Super Bowls of all-time, with Super Bowl XXX third on the list with 94.1 million viewers and Super Bowl XXVII fifth with 91.0 million viewers. (Note: P2+ measures average viewership per minute). * 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.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:55pm]


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours