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Super Bowl Is Most-Watched TV Event Ever

Rash Report: Saints-Colts Showdown Tops 1983 'M*A*S*H' Series Finale

By Published on . 3

MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Countless cable options, let alone smaller screens like computers and cellphones. The broadcast business model under assault. Two teams from relatively small markets. Add it up -- as CBS has -- and what do you get? The most-watched TV event of all time.

CBS estimates that Super Bowl XLIV was watched by 106.5 million viewers.
CBS estimates that Super Bowl XLIV was watched by 106.5 million viewers. Credit: AP
CBS estimates that Super Bowl XLIV was watched by 106.5 million viewers, which would inch it past 1983's "M*A*S*H" series finale, which was watched by about 105.9 million.

The network is also reporting that the post-Super Bowl premiere of "Undercover Boss" was hardly incognito, as the 38.6 million viewers made it the most viewed post-pigskin show since the 2001 "Survivor" season premiere.

Final Nielsen live-plus-same-day data should confirm the early estimates from the network, as well as ratings in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. But for the prime-time portion CBS -- with the game itself, the post-game and the beginning of "Undercover Boss" -- had a fast affiliate rating and share of a 29.7/61.

Not surprisingly, rivals' reruns were more Pop Warner than NFL size: Fox, whose relatively younger male viewers are generally fanatical about football, was still in second place with an overall 1.0/2 (two repeats of "'Til Death," 0.5/1 and 0.6/1; "The Simpsons," 1.3/3; "Cleveland Show," 1.1/2; "Family Guy," 1.3/3; "American Dad," 1.4/3).

ABC was third with a 0.9/2 ("America's Funniest Home Videos," 0.8/2; four "Modern Family" reruns, with two delivering a 0.8/2, as well as a 1.3/3 at 10 p.m. and a 1.2/3 at 10:30 p.m.; "The Middle," 0.6/1; "Cougar Town," 0.9/2).

And NBC lost the also-ran race with "The Biggest Loser," which ran two reruns (0.4/1 and 0.6/2).

The superb Super Bowl stats are just the latest in a string of ratings rises for big event programming, from the Emmy Awards, the Golden Globe Awards, the Grammy Awards, the CMAs and others that prove once again that network TV's crisis of confidence isn't an issue of the media model, but the media itself. With the right content, under the right conditions, broadcast can be as big as ever.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: It's not even Valentine's Day, there are feet of snow in D.C. and yet a spring finale is upon us: "Heroes" ends its season (series?) run on NBC.
Tuesday: The airline industry better buckle up, as it's examined in the "Frontline" documentary "Flying Cheap," which looks at flying since the Continental crash in Buffalo.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
CBS's Monday night sitcoms have already hit season-highs several times already, and have the momentum of being promoted on the Super Bowl.

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NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)

John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.

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