UPDATE 11:45 AM: With the time-adjusted ratings in, last night’s Super Bowl XLVI squeaked past last year’s game to rank as the most watched U.S. TV program in history. The tight New York Giants-New England Patriots contest, won by the Giants, averaged 111.3 million viewers vs. 111 million who tuned in last January for the Green Bay-Pittsburgh face-off. The big game has been holding the record for most watched TV broadcast in the U.A. since 2010 when the Super Bowl (106.5 million) edged the series finale of M*A*S*H* in 1983 (106 million). The record, which had been untouched for 27 years, was broken again by last year’s Super Bowl (111 million) and then again last night. Super Bowl viewership has now gone up for seven consecutive years. (Below is historic data for the last 10 Super Bowl telecasts.) In adults 18-49, the game averaged a 40.5 rating, the highest in 16 years, since Super Bowl XXX in 1996 (41.2). The half-time show headlined by Madonna (114 million) also posted a record for the most watched Super Bowl halftime show ever featuring entertainment. It was up 3% from last year’s show starring the Black Eyed Peas. Of course, the set’s strong reviews and great ratings are being completely overshadowed by the controversy surrounding the middle finger briefly flashed during the performance by featured singer M.I.A.
Following the Super Bowl, NBC’s Season 2 premiere of The Voice (37.6 million, 16.3 rating in adults 18-49) was up 40% in total viewers and 47% in 18-49 from last year’s post-Super Bowl telecast of Glee on Fox. It also squeaked past CBS’ Undercover Boss 2010 debut (38.7 million, 16.2/38) to become the highest rated post-Super Bowl program in 18-49 since ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy (37.9 million, 16.5) in 2006. The Voice benefited from a perfect combination of a competitive game that finished on time, allowing for it to begin at 22:15 PM. (Last year, Glee started at 22:39 PM.) Additionally, The big numbers for The Voice prove once again that reality series on average fare far better than scripted shows behind the Super Bowl. Over the past 15 years, 3 of the Top 4 post-Super Bowl programs have been unscripted, CBS’ Survivor (45.4 million viewers) in 2001, The Voice and Undercover Boss, along with drama Grey’s Anatomy. (more…)