Super Bowl XLIII Second-Most-Watched Ever

Rash Report: NBC Averages 95.4 Million Viewers

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Just like last night's superb Super Bowl game, the ratings results are going down to the wire. But the early indication from the Nielsen referees is that last night's game was the second-most-watched ever, reaching 95.4 million average viewers. It was topped only by last year's Bowl between teams from major markets, New York and Boston. XLIII should end up similar in size to the 2006 and 2007 games, despite the teams representing relatively small market Pittsburgh and midsized market Phoenix. The total number of viewers, meaning the total audience for all or part of the broadcast, was 148.3 million.

Superbowl XLIII
Superbowl XLIII Credit: AP
Overall, NBC should be doing a touchdown dance, with a great game keeping interest into the post-game, which then yielded to a post-Super Bowl episode of "The Office," all of which averaged a 29.9/6 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (according to Nielsen fast-affiliate data. Final live-plus-same-day data will take into account not only the pre-prime-time portion of the game but also when it transitioned to the post-game). For now, the preliminary perspective is the game did about a 33.0/65, but that could rise. Final numbers for last year's game between the Patriots and Giants scored among the highest ratings ever, a 37.5/73. 2007's Colts vs. Bears game, by comparison, notched a 35.2/70.

As for the Super Bowl's competition, just like every year it's a night of Pop Warner leaguers against the NFL. Perhaps it's most remarkable how many viewers rivals huddle up, given the hype (that finally lived up to its name this year). Almost all ran repeats, except for the 10 p.m. "Wipe Out" episode on ABC, which delivered a 2.0/4. Versions at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. both scared up a 1.4/3, while the night kicked off with a 1.0/2 for "America's Funniest Home Videos." Still, it was enough for ABC to take second place with a 1.4/3.

Fox was third with a 1.0/2, as a repeat of "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" started with a 0.4/1, followed by reruns of animated comedies "The Simpsons" (1.1/2), "American Dad" (1.0/2 at 8:30 and 1.5/3 at 9:30) and "Family Guy" (1.7/3). CBS was fourth, as "60 Minutes" was replaced by "Road to the White House" (0.4/1), followed by second showings of "Cold Case" (0.7/1), "The Unit" (1.4/3) and "The Mentalist" (1.3/3). The CW was fifth, as usual, but like all non-NBC networks, with even lower ratings: "Jericho" and theatrical "Throw Momma From the Train" each delivered a 0.2/0.

With Pittsburgh's victory, it's the off-season now. After a great ratings year, it's clear America's (TV) pastime will be missed by fans, and certainly the networks.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: At 8 p.m., two video versions of heroes: NBC's series of the same name returns with fresh episodes and PBS portrays how medical hero Jonas Salk saved lives in "American Experience."
Tuesday: With CBS's "The Mentalist" again a repeat, it's an opportunity to again get caught up on Fox's "Fringe," which is one of the only other few freshman successes this year.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
The 3-D glasses used for Super Bowl commercials bring NBC's "Chuck" to life. Will it do the same to the ratings?

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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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