NBC’s Super Bowl XLVI Lives Up to Hype, Draws Largest Audience in U.S. History
By: Jason Dachman, Managing Editor
Monday, February 6, 2012 - 3:36 pm

Super Bowl XLVI truly lived up to all the ratings hype, as Sunday’s game on NBC was the most-watched television program in U.S. history and the highest-rated Super Bowl in 26 years, according to Nielsen fast nationals. The New York Giants’ 21-17 win over the New England Patriots was seen by a record 111.3 million viewers (6:31-9:58 p.m. ET), topping last year’s 111.0 for Super Bowl XLV on Fox.

The game earned a 47.0/71 rating/share, up 2% over last year’s 46.0/69 for Super Bowl XLV and marking the highest-rated Super Bowl since 1986 (Bears-Patriots, Super Bowl XX, 48.3/70). The 47.0 rating is the sixth highest in Super Bowl history. The game drew a 40.5 rating in the advertiser-coveted Adult 18-49 demographic, the highest for a Super Bowl in 16 years (Cowboys-Steelers, Super Bowl XXX, 41.2).

Viewership and ratings peaked at a 117.7 million viewers and a 50.7/72, respectively, from 9:30-9:58 p.m. ET in the fourth quarter when Eli Manning led the Giants on a game-winning drive.

Madonna Dominates Halftime
The Super Bowl halftime performance by Madonna (8-8:30), was seen by 114.0 million viewers, making it the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show featuring entertainment ever (dating back to 1991). The halftime show drew nearly four million more viewers than last year’s performance featuring the Black Eyed Peas (110.3 million), and 18.3 million more than NBC’s last Super Bowl with Bruce Springsteen (95.7 million). The halftime show earned an all-time record 47.4 household rating, which is 6% higher than last year (44.7/68).

Boston Leads Local Markets
Boston notched the best overnight rating ever for an NFL game (56.7/81), topping the previous high of 56.1/78 for Super Bowl XXXVI (56.1/78 on Fox).

Meanwhile, the New York market registered a 49.7/74, the second-highest overnight for an NFL game in that market, trailing only the 53.4/72 for Super Bowl XXI, the Giants first-ever Super Bowl. By comparison, New York registered a 44.9/67 for Super Bowl XLII, the last time they were in the big game. Overall, New York ranked 18th in metered markets.

The host market of Indianapolis registered a 56.4/79 overnight rating, the second-best overnight for a host market only trailing Jacksonville (58.9/77) for Super Bowl XXXIX. Indy trailed only Boston as the highest-rated metered market.

Following Boston and Indianapolis, the markets that drew the highest overnights were Norfolk (54.2/73), Columbus (54.1/72), New Orleans (54.0/72), Nashville (53.5/74), Jacksonville (53.5/70), Buffalo (52.9/72), Kansas City (52.1/73), and Milwaukee (52.0/73).

A Super Bowl Ratings History Lesson
The game now ranks atop the viewership charts among all U.S. television programs:

  • 1. 111.3 Million – Super Bowl XLVI, NBC (Last Night’s Game)
  • 2. 111.0 Million – Super Bowl XLV, Fox
  • 3. 106.5 Million – Super Bowl XLIV, CBS
  • 4. 106.0 Million – M.A.S.H. Finale, CBS
  • 5. 98.7 Million – Super Bowl XLIII, NBC

The game trails only Super Bowl XVI on CBS in 1982 as the highest-rated Super Bowl in history:

  • 1. 49.1/73 – Super Bowl XVI, CBS
  • 2. 48.6/69 – Super Bowl XVII, NBC
  • 3. 48.3/70 – Super Bowl XX, NBC
  • 4. 47.2/67 – Super Bowl XII, CBS
  • 5. 47.1/74 – Super Bowl XIII, NBC
  • 6. 47.0/71 – Super Bowl XLVI, NBC (Last Night’s Game)
  • T7. 46.4/71 – Super Bowl XVIII, CBS
  • T7. 46.4/63 – Super Bowl XIX, ABC
  • 9. 46.3/67 – Super Bowl XIV, CBS
  • 10. 46.0/69 – Super Bowl XLV, Fox

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