People watched Giants' thrilling victory in record numbers
Was it the pursuit of perfection or the rooting interest in the underdog? Probably, it was both. In any event, Sunday night's Super Bowl was the most-watched, ever, in terms of the number of viewers who watched at least six minutes of the broadcast, according to A.C. Nielsen.
The top five Super Bowl audiences of all time Super Bowl Date Network Viewers Teams SB XLII Feb. 3, 2008 Fox 148.3 million Giants-Patriots SB XXXVIII Feb. 1, 2004 CBS 144.4 million Patriots-Panthers SB XL Feb. 5, 2006 ABC 141.4 million Steelers-Seahawks SB XLI Feb. 4, 2007 CBS 139.8 million Colts-Bears SB XXXVII Jan. 26, 2003 ABC 138.9 million Bucs-Raiders
Super Bowl XLII attracted 148.3 million total viewers, topping the old record of 144.4 million for Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, when New England beat Carolina 32-29 on a last-second field goal by Adam Vinatieri. (Total TV audience is defined as viewers watching the game for at least six minutes.)While last night's game fell well short of the game's Nielsen ratings peak of 49.1 set in 1982, when the 49ers beat the Bengals, 26-21, in Super Bowl XVI, its 43.2 rating was the highest since Super Bowl XXXIV in 2000, when the Rams beat the Titans 23-16. (Ratings measure the portion of total TV households watching a program, as opposed to total numbers of viewers.) "All the elements were there," said David Carter, executive director of the University of Southern California's Sports Business Institute, rattling off the factors: unbeaten Patriots, "name" quarterbacks and big media markets (No. 1 New York and No. 7 Boston, whose Patriots may have lost the game but whose Nielsens led all U.S. cities, with a 55.6 rating). "The more fragmented television has become, the more the remaining big events that combine sports and entertainment and drama has really driven interest." The capping element was a gripping game. Super Bowl XLII began with a huge audience (the highest-rated first 30 minutes in eight years) that just kept building, to 105.7 million viewers between 9:30 and 10 p.m. ET, as the lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter.
Who watched where?
Interestingly enough, New York City wasn't among the metropolitan areas most-glued to TV sets for the Giants' win, according to NFL numbers.
Top 5 markets, SB XLII ratings Market Rating Boston 55.6 Indianapolis 54.1 Jacksonville 52.0 Pittsburgh 50.8 Washington., D.C. 50.3
That made the championship thriller the second-most-watched show in American broadcast history, behind only the last episode of M*A*S*H in 1983. Some 63.9 million viewers then stayed tuned to watch confetti fly and speeches flow, making this the most-watched postgame show in 10 years.Can next year's Super Bowl hope to put up these kinds of numbers? Probably not, says Robert Seidman, whose Web site, TVbythenumbers.com, tracks and analyzes Nielsen ratings. "This matchup was special, in terms of history. The game went down to the wire, and the game still only did 5 to 6 percent better than last year," he says, referring to the Colts-Bears game whose audience was 93.2 million. Seidman says it's amazing for any sports event to recapture or surpass audience levels of a decade or more ago, but in an age of declining ratings, "I'd be surprised if next year's game doesn't revert back to the levels of recent years."
John Helyar is a senior writer for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine. He previously covered the business of sports for The Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine and is the author of "Lords of the Realm: The Real History of Baseball."
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SUPER BOWL XLII
Game coverage• Belichick ready to move on from Super Bowl loss
• Nevada sports books lose record $2.6M
• View to a thrill: Record 97.5 million watch XLII
• Giants' win shatters viewership records
• Clayton: Can the Giants repeat?
• Simmons: Free fallin'
• Giants spoil Pats' perfect season
• Wojciechowski: Blame Pats for this debacle
• Wickersham: Brady dazed and confused
• Clayton: Eli lets instincts take over
• Clayton: N.Y. 'misfits' harass Brady
• Sando: Was Brady rattled?
• Mosley: Belichick left a second early
• Chadiha: Ten things we learned
• Garber: Tyree's catch one for the ages
• Zoom galleries 1 | 2 | Great SB upsets
• SportsNation: Best Super Bowl?
• SportsNation: Biggest SB upset?
• SportsNation: Your favorite commercials?
Commentary/Features• Clayton: Top five contenders for the next SB
• '72 Fins breathe sigh of relief after Giants win
• Chadiha: Giants enjoy underdog role
• Sando: Coughlin, Giants made it work
• Super Bowl picks: Our experts weigh in
• Merrill: Nine previously perfect Patriots
• Merrill: Harrison deals with his rep just fine
• Clayton: Giants' O-line worthy of accolades
• Pasquarelli: Tip Sheet
• Pasquarelli: Tip Sheet notes
• Wojciechowski: 15 reasons Patriots will win
• E-ticket: Patriots' man of mystery
• Sunday Countdown
• Clayton's First and Goal
• Chadiha: Giants miss Shockey
• Garber: Injured war vet inspires Giants
• Pasquarelli: The Pats' crucial cameos
• Garber: In Brady's world, insecurity remains
• Merrill: Hixon's traumatizing season
• Football Outsiders: SB numbers crunching
• Pasquarelli: Patriots' silent sentinel
• Wojciechowski: Unflappable Eli
• Sando: Brady rising among all-time QBs
• Chadiha: Giants' rookies playing prominent role
• Fleming: Cardinals/Pottsville Curse
• Clayton: Youth serving Giants well
• Chadiha: Ranking the best QBs by decade
• Klancnik: Top QBs by jersey number
• Hashmarks: Media day coverage | Gallery
• Pasquarelli: Pats' old-school LBs
• Helyar: Marketing windfall for Eli Manning
• Garber: Seau's ring quest
• Pasquarelli: Bruschi's full-circle journey
• Animated plays
• From the research room
• Chadiha: Pierce just wants to win
• Wojciechowski: Explaining Bill Belichick
• Helyar: Recession? Not at Super Bowl!
• Giants' Snee doesn't stray from roots
• Sando: Seymour in eye of storm
• Merrill: Welker scales new heights for Pats
• Pasquarelli: Brady is ready to play
• Garber: The preservation of Plaxico
• Pasquarelli: Hill's spirit lives on
• Clayton: Giants' juggling act at CB works
• Wickersham: Giant ideas
• Klosterman: All too perfect
• Crown Jewels: A look at Super Bowl rings
• FB Outsiders: Giants one of worst SB teams
• Helyar: Patriots will drive TV ratings
• Clayton: First and goal
• Chadiha: Giants' glory road
• Mosley: Brady's ankle saves the week
• Woj: Preseason predictions revisited
• Merrill: David Woodley's dark spotlight
• Former SB QBs: Plunkett | Rypien | Ferragamo
• More: Morton | Humphries | Hostetler | Eason
• Starting matchups of Super Bowl QBs
• Ranking the QB performances: 1-40 | 41-82
• Jaworski: Six Super Bowl surprises
• Joyner: Brady's bad decisions
• Clayton: Eli's managing fine
• Chadiha: Focused Giants
• AccuScore simulation: Pats to prevail
• Chadiha: First Look at the Super Bowl
• Playoff schedule
• Vermeil doubts spying made difference for Pats
• Fish: Ex-Ram Warner suspicious of Pats in SB XXXVI
• Report: Pats taped Rams' SB walk-through
• Specter to Goodell: Let's talk
• Fish: Possible 'Spygate' witness surfaces
• Easterbrook: NFL can blame itself for scandal's timing
• Munson: Congressional interest serious
• Pasquarelli: Specter should stick with politics
• Clayton: Spy saga won't distract Patriots
• Hashmarks at Goodell's news conference
• Specter to Goodell (.pdf)
• Goodell to Specter (.pdf)
Page 2• Gallo: Five stages of heartbreak for Pats' fans
• Hill: Best Super Bowl parties
• Hill: Teflon Tom Brady
• Popculture roundtable on the Super Bowl
• Hill: Raiders quit on Moss
• Flem File at the Super Bowl
• Fleming: Defining greatness
• Best teams never to win a title
• TMQ: Title-game analysis
• Why Boston teams are so good
• Gallo: Countdown to kickoff
• More from Page 2
News• Brady ankle not on injury report
• Brady on Plax prediction: Only 17 points for Pats?
• Carey named first black Super Bowl referee
• Brady practices in Pats' first Super Bowl session
• Ross gets sick as unified Giants face flu
• NFL not worried about spying
• Security high for Super Bowl
• Williams to be honored during Super Bowl
• Bootless Brady departs for Arizona
• Tickets reselling for average of $4,300
• Burress: Giants' receivers are better
Scouts Inc.• Roundtable: Seven scouts weigh in
• Super Bowl XLII X Factors
• Coaching comparison: Styles vary, results same
• Defensive line breakdowns
• Horton: Notes from the film room (Day 5)
• Matchups to watch in Super Bowl XLII
• Running-game breakdown
• Horton: Notes from the film room (Day 4)
• QB tale of the the tape
• Horton: Notes from the film room (Day 3)
• Ranking NFL QBs 1-64
• Take II on Super Bowl XLII
• Giants' DBs overmatched or underrated?
• Horton: Notes from film room (Day 2)
• Horton: 10 things to watch in SB XLII
• Horton: Notes from the film room (Day 1)
• A tale of two underrated O-lines
• Take I on Super Bowl XLII
• Players ranked Nos. 1-106
SportsNation• Vote: Which team will win?
• Vote: Who wins the head-to-head matchups?
• Vote: Which team are you rooting for?
• Conversation: Talk Super Bowl XLII
• Map: Which states are picking the Giants?
• Quiz: 42 Super Bowl history questions
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Hello from Arizona!
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Live from Media Day
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Live with oddsmaker
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Live with Matt Hasselbeck
• Chat: Buzzmaster: Live with Gregg Easterbrook
• Rank: Super Bowl's best individual performances
• Rank: Super Bowl coaches
• Rank: Super Bowl careers
• Rank: Super Bowl teams
• Rank: Super Bowl games
• Rank: Greatest all-time quarterbacks
• Vote: Potential for QB greatness?
• Quiz: Greatest quarterbacks
• ABCNews: Super Bowl or Super Tuesday?
• Chat Rewind: When did undefeated talk start?
• Vote: Can we proposition you?
• Pulse: What is SportsNation saying about XLII?
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