Monday, February 08, 2010

Super Bowl XLIV broadcast tops 1983 'M*A*S*H' finale for all-time TV ratings crown

By Dave Walker, The Times-Picayune
February 08, 2010, 3:05PM

More households were tuned to CBS’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLIV than any scheduled program in U.S. TV history.

Sunday’s New Orleans Saints defeat of the Indianapolis Colts was viewed in 51.7 million households, topping the previous record holder, the 1983 finale of the CBS sitcom “M*A*S*H,” which drew 50.2 million homes, the Nielsen Co. announced Monday.

Sunday’s total average audience of 106.5 million viewers easily eclipsed last year’s record Super Bowl audience -- the 98.7 million viewers who tuned to NBC’s broadcast of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defeat of the Arizona Cardinals.

Nielsen didn’t compile total-viewer data in 1983, said Aaron Lewis, communications director for the ratings-gathering service, and so isn’t releasing comparative figures in that measurement for this Super Bowl.

Reference sources list various audience totals for the “M*A*S*H” finale. One of them is 106 million viewers, which Lewis said “may be accurate” and which would put the Saints-Colts Super Bowl atop that column as well.

Ratings analysts had predicted a record audience total for the game based on the established popularity of Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, the growing popularity of the Saints, the down national economy (encouraging thrifty stay-home viewing instead of watching the game in public places like bars and restaurants, which is not measured by Nielsen) and heavy weekend snowfall in some Eastern cities (also discouraging public viewing).

Public viewing and Super Bowl parties might’ve cost CBS affiliate WWL-Channel 4 a local-ratings record for the Saints’ Super Bowl triumph.

In New Orleans, the overnight ratings for WWL-TV’s Super Bowl broadcast fell short of the all-time mark set by WVUE-Channel 8 with the NFC Championship Game, which had a 63.2 local rating/82 share – the largest local rating in NFL post-season history, according to Fox.

Sunday’s game had a still-huge 56.3 rating, 82 share here. Each rating point represents 1 percent of total TV households, or about 6,340 homes. Share is the percentage of viewership in homes with a set in use.

“Does this mean less people actually watched the Super Bowl than the NFC Championship Game?” said Joann Habisreitinger, media director for Zehnder Communications in New Orleans. “I’d bet my life that’s not the case.

“The reason for the ratings difference is due to two key factors. One, a bunch of Who Dats in Miami not contributing to local viewership, and two, Super Bowl parties where large groups of people gathered in other people’s homes or outside of their home (such as in bars) where their viewership was not measured and therefore did not contribute to the Nielsen rating.

“Based on the share being dead even, I think it’s safe to assume the same number of people (if not more) viewed the Super Bowl.”

New Orleans led all local markets in overnight ratings for the Super Bowl, followed by snowbound Washington, D.C. (56.0 rating/73 share), Nashville (54.4/73), Indianapolis (54.2/80) and Columbus, Ohio (54.0/74).

Sunday, February 07, 2010