History was made last night on Fox when Super Bowl XLV became the most-watched U.S. television program ever, and Fox became the first network ever to exceed 100 million viewers (100.9 million) for a night in prime time, according to fast-national ratings released today by Nielsen Media Research. The game, the outcome of which was in doubt until the final seconds, saw the Green Bay Packers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 to capture the franchise's fourth Super Bowl Championship.
Fox Sports' broadcast of Super Bowl XLV averaged 111 million viewers and is the most-watched television program in U.S. history, obliterating the prior record of 106.5 set last year during Super Bowl XLIV by 4.5 million viewers and the 106.0 million for the series finale of M*A*S*H, which held the viewership record from 1983 to 2010.
This is the fourth consecutive Super Bowl to set a viewership record, and attracted 13.5 million more viewers than Fox's last Super Bowl broadcast in 2008 (97.5 million) for the New York Giants upset of the undefeated New England Patriots. No other major sporting event has ever hit a record high in four consecutive years. This also marks the sixth straight year that Super Bowl viewership has increased, and over that span average Super Bowl viewership has increased from 86.1 million in 2005 to 111.0 million, a gain of nearly 25 million viewers.
The game posted a 46.0/69 household rating/share tying Super Bowl XXX in 1996 (Dallas-Pittsburgh) as the highest-rated since Super Bowl XX in 1986 (48.3/70, Chicago vs. New England). Only eight of the 45 Super Bowls played had a higher rating, and all were played in a nine-year span between 1978 and 1986.
Super Bowl XLV also set a new mark for total viewership of any program in U.S. history (persons age 2+ watching all or part of the game) with 162.9 million people watching, 9.5 more than the record set a year ago (153.4 million).
Half-hour ratings and average viewership (in millions) for the game are as follows: 41.4/97.2 (6:34-7:00 PM ET); 44.3/106.8 (7:00-7:30); 45.9/111.7 (7:30-8:00); 44.7/110.2 (8:00-8:30); 46.8/114.9 (8:30-9:00); 48.4/116.8 (9:00-9:30); 49.2/117.2 (9:30-10:00); 47.1/111.5 (10:00-10:13 PM ET).
The Super Bowl XLV Pre-Game Show averaged an 11.5/23 from 2:00 PM ET to kickoff at 6:34 PM ET, a +16% gain over last year's 9.9/19, with 22.2 million viewers, and is the highest-rated, most-watched Super Bowl pre-game show in nine years (12.9, 23.3 million on Fox). Fox's Super Bowl XLV Post-Game Show earned a 28.4/46 (66.0 mill.), down -14% compared to a year ago (33.0/51) on CBS, but up +11% over 2009's 25.7/42 on NBC.
Following the post-game, a special airing of Glee averaged a series-best 13.6/25 (26.8 mill.) among all Households and 11.1 among Adults 18-49, and is the highest-rated scripted program on television in three years among Adults 18-49.
The airing of Super Bowl XLV goes down as Fox's most-watched night of prime time ever, as well as Fox's highest-rated night ever among Adults 18-49. It's also the most-watched night on any network in at least 20 years, and the highest-rated night on any network among Adults 18-49 in 15 years (dating to the night of Super Bowl XXX on NBC). The record-smashing performance of the Super Bowl vaults Fox into first place in the Adults 18-49 ratings race for the first time this season. Fox projects to average a 3.4/9 for the season among Adults 18-49 through last night's game, surpassing second-best CBS (3.0).
The Super Bowl Halftime Show, featuring The Black Eyed Peas posted a 44.7/68 from 8:00 PM ET-8:30 PM ET, only -3% lower than the entire game. That's a slightly better audience retention than was delivered by recent halftimes featuring The Who in 2010 (-4%), Bruce Springsteen in 2009 (-5%) and Tom Petty in 2008 (-6%). It is the highest-rated half-time since Michael Jackson performed in 1993 (45.5).