According to an ABC spokesman, quoting Nielsen Media Research Fast National numbers, the game drew an average of 90.72 million viewers, compared with the previous year’s broadcast on Fox that pulled in 86.1 million viewers. Super Bowl XL drew a household rating of 41.6 and a 62 share, and in the 18-49 demographic drew a 34.6 rating. (A rating is a percentage of households watching a broadcast.)
In local markets, the game drew a 57.1 rating in Pittsburgh, home of the winning team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. In the Seattle market, home of the losing Seahawks, the game scored a 55 rating while viewers in Detroit, the host city, pushed the game to a 52.3 rating.
ABC is also touting the huge ratings success of the network’s post-game entertainment. Hospital drama “Grey’s Anatomy” reached 38.1 million households. That figure is the largest audience for post-game entertainment since "Survivor 2" broadcast on CBS in 2001.
Last year’s matchup between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles drew 86.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research, for a 41.1 household rating for Fox. That figure was down from 2004, when 89.8 million viewers, or 41.4% of U.S. households, tuned in to see the Patriots and the Carolina Panthers on CBS. The now infamous telecast featured the Janet Jackson halftime show wardrobe malfunction.
According to A.C. Nielsen, the most-watched Super Bowl in the past 10 years was the 1996 contest between the Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys (the Steelers lost that game). That game drew 94.1 million viewers, for 46 rating. The 1982 Super Bowl was the most-watched of all time, with a rating of 49.1.
Strong network promos
ABC ran a large number of promotions for its own shows during the game, and some of the Walt Disney Co. network's slick ads outclassed its clients’ spots by a mile. “Get in the Game” promotion for "Desperate Housewives" featured sports stars such as Shaquille O’Neal and Tony Hawk discussing the fate of their favorite characters. (Shaq offered his condolences for the loss of Gabrielle’s baby.) But the real standout was the clever plug for “Lost.” Scenes from the show were edited together with the music vidoe for Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love,” and the lyrics were changed to "You might as wel face it you're addicted to Lost."
ABC also used to the event to promote the March debut of new comedy, “Sons & Daughters,” from "Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels. The show is produced by NBC Universal Television Studios.