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Super Bowl XLVIII Is Most-Watched TV Show in U.S. History

It produced a lopsided result, but Sunday’s telecast of the Super Bowl on Fox drew a record 111.5 million viewers, according to updated Nielsen estimates — a reversal of preliminary numbers which showed the game was merely fifth all-time.

Sunday’s game figured to rate even higher, but the Seattle Seahawks jumped out to a 22-point halftime lead and ended up winning 43-8 — one of the most noncompetitive Super Bowls on record. It was a dream matchup of the NFL’s top-rated offense (Denver Broncos) and its highest-rated defense (Seattle), and held in the nation’s largest market for the first time.

Sure enough, the household rating/share at kickoff (44.5/70) ranks as the highest on record and a sizable 12% above last year, suggesting that a more competitive game would have resulted in even higher viewership

Sunday’s big haul means the Super Bowl has established the all-time U.S. viewership high in six of the last seven years. The previous record holders for most-watched events in U.S. TV history were 2012’s Super Bowl, seen by 111.3 million, and the 2010 game, with 111 million viewers.

Last year’s game on CBS between the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers ended up averaging 108.69 million viewers.

(Sunday’s average viewership was actually 112.6 million if you include the 528,000 who watched on digital platforms via FOX Sports GO and FOXSports.com and the 561,000 who watched the Spanish-language feed on FOX Deportes.)

Fox used the Super Bowl to funnel new viewers into comedies “New Girl” and “Brooklyn Nine,” with the former (10:23-10:54 p.m. ET) averaging an 11.1 rating in adults 18-49 and 25.6 million viewers overall — the best numbers for any scripted entertainment program on television since “Glee” did an 11.2 following the Super Bowl three years ago. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (10:54-1:25 p.m.) averaged a 6.7 in 18-49 and 14.8 million viewers overall.

The halftime act of Brunos Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which ran from roughly 8:05 to 8:35 p.m. ET, also set a record: 115.3 million. The previous highs were for Beyonce last year (110.8 million) and Madonna two years ago (114.0).

Sunday’s game from East Rutherford, N.J., was the first held in the New York area, and that helped produce a huge 50.5 overnight household rating for WNYW Fox 5 in Gotham — the highest there since the 1987 Super Bowl between the New York Giants and Denver Broncos earned a 53.4. The blowout also scored a 56.7 rating in Seattle and a 51.4 in Denver.

The top-rated market in the overnights was actually Kansas City (58.1 rating), whose Chiefs are a rival of the Broncos and likely loved the night’s result.

According to Twitter, more than 24.9 million Tweets were made during the live telecast of the game — more than the 24.1 million during last year’s game (which also featured a blackout that delayed the game for nearly half an hour). By comparison, the previous week’s Grammy Awards on CBS attracted roughly 15.2 million Tweets during the East Coast airing of the show.

The highest Tweets-per-minute were generated by Percy Harvin’s 87-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to open the third quarter (381,605 TPM) and Jermaine Kearse’s 23-yard TD pass From Russell Wilson with 3:11 remaining in the third quarter (271,775 TPM). The end of the halftime show, which featured Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, averaged 229,533 TPM.

Nielsen SocialGuide reported Monday that 15.3 million people saw Tweets about the Super Bowl, viewing an average of 120 about the game, halftime show or brands advertised on Fox. The number of unique authors (5.6 million, each sending on average 4.5 Tweets) was up 6% from last year.

And on Facebook, more than 50 million people had more than 185 million interactions (posts, comments and likes) related to the Super Bowl. The Harvin kickoff return and Kearse touchdown catch were also the most popular here, followed by Malcolm Smith’s interception of Peyton Manning run back for a touchdown in the second quarter and then the final seconds of the game. The fifth most popular moment on Facebook, the lone bright spot for the Broncos, was Demaryius Thomas’ touchdown to make it 36-6.

Elsewhere in primetime on Sunday, the other nets were scrounging for crumbs, with Telemundo able to pull a 2 share in adults 18-49 while ABC, CBS, NBC and Univision all did a 1. The top programs came in the 10 p.m. hour and benefited from the conclusion of the game. ABC’s “Shark Tank” (1.1 rating/3 share in adults 18-49, 3.7 million viewers overall) led among adults 18-49, and CBS’ encore of “NCIS” (0.9/2 in 18-49, 6.8 million viewers overall) drew the largest overall audience.

At PBS, “Downton Abbey” averaged 6.8 million viewers in the 9 p.m. hour, up a bit from the 6.6 million it drew against last year’s Super Bowl. It was the most-watched non-sports program in its timeslot.

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