Just as the New York Giants pulled out a last-minute victory over the New England Patriots, NBC's telecast of Super Bowl XLVI eked out a narrow win to become the most-watched television program in U.S. history.
Comcast-owned NBC's coverage of Eli Manning and the Giants' 21-17 triumph over the Pats drew an average audience of 111.3 million, 300,000 more than the 111 million delivered by Fox's presentation of Super Bowl XVL in which Green Bay defeated Pittsburgh attracted last year, according to Nielsen national data.
The Peacock's uptick marked the seventh consecutive NFL championship game has improved its audience from the prior year and represented the third straight year the Big Game has set a new U.S. TV viewing record. CBS's coverage of the New Orleans Saints win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, which scored with just under 106.5 million viewers on average, was the first of the title tilts to surpass the previous record-holder, the series finale of M*A*S*H*. The Alan Alda-starrer tallied 106 million viewers on March 3, 1983.
The Feb. 5 telecast from Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis tackled a 47.0 rating and 71 share, up from a 46.0 and 69 share from last year's game. Super Bowl XLVI was the highest-rated NFL championship game since the Chicago Bears' rout of the Patriots in Super Bowl XX in 1986 notched a 48.3/70 share. Sunday's game was the sixth-highest-rated Super Bowl ever, according to Nielsen data.
Moreover, the game recorded a 40.5 rating among the Madison Avenue-coveted persons 18-to-49 demographic, the best with that group in 16 years: a 41.2 for Super Bowl XXX in 1996.
The Big Game served as a strong lead-in for NBC's airing of The Voice that immediately followed. The Voice averaged 37.6 million watchers and a 16.3 rating in the aforementioned demo, the best for entertainment program in the post-Super Bowl slot since Grey's Anatomy treated ABC to a 16.5 rating on Feb. 5, 2006. The Voice was up 47% from Glee's 11.1 for Fox in the demo last and inched past Undercover Boss's16.2 for CBS in 2010.
Not surprisingly, the participants' home team markets helped set the pace on the local viewing level. Boston registered its best-ever rating for an NFL game with a 56.7/81 overnight, eclipsing the previous high of a 56.1/78 for Super Bowl XXXVI on Fox, which covered the Pats' first NFL championship over the St. Louis Rams, 20-17.
The Big Game also played big in the Big Apple, with Nielsen's top DMA placing 18th at a 49.7/74, the second-highest overnight for an NFL game in New York, trailing only the 53.4/72 for Super Bowl XXI in 1987, the Giants first-ever Super Bowl over John Elway's Denver Broncos..By comparison, New York registered a 44.9/67 for Super Bowl XLII in 2008, when they ruined New England's quest for 19-0 NFL perfection.
The host market of Indianapolis registered a 56.4/79, the second-best overnight for a host market only trailing Jacksonville (58.9/77) for Super Bowl XXXIX).
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