Fox's coverage of Super Bowl XLV shattered Nielsen records, becoming the most-watched U.S. TV program in history, while also making the network the first to average 100 million viewers in primetime.
The network's telecast of the Green Bay Packers' 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium averaged 111 million watchers, according to Nielsen fast national data, topping the 106.5 million drawn by CBS's presentation of Super Bowl XLIV last year. That telecast of the New Orleans Saints' win over the Indianapolis Colts had toppled the series finale of M*A*S*H as the most-watched show ever in this nation.
The game -- during which most valuable player Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to hoist the Lombardi Trophy for a fourth time -- posted a 46 rating/69 share tying NBC's coverage of Super Bowl XXX in 1996, when Dallas dropped Pittsburgh, as the highest-rated since Super Bowl XX in 1986, which scored a 48.3/70 for the Peacock with Chicago's blowout of New England. Only eight of the 45 Super Bowls played had a higher rating than the Feb. 6 contest, and all came during a nine-year span between 1978 and 1986 (see list here), when the U.S. population was much smaller, and there were fewer TV households and entertainment choices.
Packers-Steelers marks the fourth consecutive NFL championship game that has set a viewing mark, and garnered 13.5 million more viewers than Fox's coverage of the New York Giants' upset of the then-undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLI. This also marks the sixth straight year that Super Bowl viewership has increased, and over that span the average audience has increased from 86.1 million in 2005 to 111.0 million, a gain of nearly 25 million viewers.
Super Bowl XLV also set a new mark for total viewership of any program in U.S. history with 162.9 million people watching all or part of the contest, which was decided in the final minute and 9.5 million more than the record 153.4 million a year ago.
Should the NFL avert a work stoppage that is threatening the 2011 season, Comcast may have a shot to grab the U.S. audience record as NBC holds the right to Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis.
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