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Super Bowl draws largest TV audience

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Associated Press
February 9, 2010
— The New Orleans Saints’ victory over Indianapolis in the Super Bowl was watched by more than 106 million people, surpassing the 1983 finale of “M-A-S-H” to become the most-watched program in U.S. television history, the Nielsen Co. said Monday.

Compelling story lines involving the city of New Orleans and its ongoing recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the attempt at a second Super Bowl ring for Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning propelled the viewership. Football ratings have been strong all season.


“It was one of those magical moments that you don’t often see in sports,” said Sean McManus, CBS News and Sports president.


Nielsen estimated Monday that 106.5 million people watched Sunday’s Super Bowl. The “M-A-S-H” record was 105.97 million.


The viewership estimate obliterated the previous record viewership for a Super Bowl—last year’s game between Arizona and Pittsburgh, seen by 98.7 million people.


Ultimately, it may be hard to tell which program was really watched by more people. There’s a margin for error, and Nielsen’s Monday estimate could change with a more thorough look at data due today.


The Nielsen estimate drew some congratulations from Alan Alda, the star of “M-A-S-H.”


“If the ‘M-A-S-H’ audience was eclipsed, it was probably due in large part to the fact that the whole country is rooting for New Orleans to triumph in every way possible,” Alda said. “I am, too, and I couldn’t be happier for them. I love that city.”


There are more American homes with television sets now (114.9 million) than there were in 1983 (83.3 million). An estimated 77 percent of homes with TVs on were watching “M-A-S-H” in 1983, compared with the audience share of 68 for the Super Bowl.



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