More than 106 million persons tuned into Super Bowl XLIV Sunday night, making it the most-viewed program in TV history.
The previous record was set back in 1983 by the "M-A-S-H" finale which was seen by 105.97 million viewers.
In metered markets across the country, the telecast of the Saints win over the Colts averaged a 46.4 rating and 68 share, meaning just under one out of every two homes with a TV set was tuned to the game.
In New Orleans, 82% of all TV's in use last night were tuned into the Saints 31-17 win over the Colts.
Last night's contest drew 70 million more viewers than the BCS championship game between Texas and Alabama.
The Super Bowl caps off a remarkable year for the NFL. In a time when other sports must look at fragmented audiences and lower viewer numbers thanks to additional channels choices, the NFL continues to be the most attractive TV show around.
League ratings and viewership grew for all five of its network partners (FOX, CBS, NBC, ESPN, NFL Network) during the regular season and every playoff round this season saw an increase in ratings.
The NFC Championship Game (57.9 million viewers) and AFC Championship (46.9 million viewers) games averaged 52.9 million viewers, the league’s most since 1982.
The NFL continues to defy all the ratings stereotypes that broadcasters love to depend upon i.e. Big Markets Drive Big Ratings, and Close Games Increase Viewerships.
Three of the top four teams in the championship games were well out of the Top 10 markets, and the games generally were not wire-to-wire contests.
Several theories abound as to why the NFL has thrived in the media while other sports flounder. They include the economy keeping people at home. Also the NFL is a made-for-TV sport which treasures its efficiency in making sure that games fit a 3-hour window. There have also been story lines that have lasted all season, including the Brett Favre saga and the Saints helping its city gets past its hurricane-ravaged past.
One intriguing theory is the advancement in HDTV. The enclosed stadium setting with all the color and pageantry lends itself to high definition broadcasting. No wonder the NFL is at the forefront of the development of 3DTV.