NBC’s Coverage of Super Bowl XLVI Served Up 111.3 Million Total Viewers, Marking an All-Time TV Ratings High | Adweek NBC’s Coverage of Super Bowl XLVI Served Up 111.3 Million Total Viewers, Marking an All-Time TV Ratings High | Adweek
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Giants-Pats Set TV Ratings Record

Super Bowl XLVI draws 111.3 million viewers

Passing into the record books. | Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

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The NFL season that almost didn’t happen ended on a suitably triumphant note, as the instant classic rematch of the New York Giants and New England Patriots broke the all-time ratings record.

According to Nielsen, NBC’s coverage of Super Bowl XLVI attracted 111.3 million total viewers Sunday night, squeaking past last year’s record turnout by 0.3 percent.

The Giants’ 21-17 victory marked the seventh consecutive year of ratings growth for the Super Bowl, which first broke the 100 million viewer mark two years ago. (The Saints-Colts broadcast delivered 106.5 million viewers on Feb. 7, 2010.)

In keeping with the game’s nail-biting intensity, deliveries increased as the night progressed. The opening kickoff was seen by some 99.2 million viewers while about 114 million people watched Madonna perform at halftime.

Viewership peaked (117.7 million) between 9:30 p.m. and 9:58 p.m. EST, a period that featured Giants’ running back Ahmad Bradshaw scoring what was to be the winning touchdown and Pats’ QB Tom Brady throwing up a last-ditch "Fail Mary" that fell harmlessly to the turf.

Although Patriots fans would have you believe otherwise, Super Bowl XLVI proved to be a perfect capper to a season that once looked as if it might never come to fruition. After a four-month lockout, the NFL and the Players Association came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement that guarantees 10 years of labor peace and preserved the 2011-12 campaign.

In leading the Giants to their second Super Bowl title in five years, Eli Manning helped draw a whopping 40.5 rating in the all-important 18-49 demo, the best since the Steelers and Cowboys scared up a 41.2 in Super Bowl XXX on Jan. 28, 1996. That broadcast averaged 94.1 million viewers, a high-water mark that stood a dozen years. (It’s worth noting that the first Giants-Pats title battle smashed the earlier record, drawing 97.4 million viewers to Fox on Feb. 3, 2008.)

So assured is the NFL’s grip on the culture that the last three Super Bowls have left the long-standing record set by the series finale of M*A*S*H in the dust. Hawkeye, Hot Lips and the rest of the 4077th choppered out of Korea in front of 106 million viewers on Feb. 28, 1983.

At the time M*A*S*H* set the ratings record, there were just over 83 million TV households in the U.S. Today, there are an estimated 114.7 million TV homes, which marks an increase of 38 percent over the last 30 years.

In Boston, the Super Bowl notched the highest rating for an NFL game in the DMA (56.7/81 share). The New York market registered a 49.7 rating/74 share, the second highest overnight for an NFL game in that market, trailing only the 53.4/72 for Super Bowl XXI (Giants-Denver, Jan. 25, 1987).

To the relief of the folks at 30 Rock, NBC delivered tremendous numbers with its lead-out broadcast. The Season 2 premiere of The Voice averaged 37.6 million viewers and a 16.3 rating in the demo, making it the highest rated entertainment program among the 18-49 set since ABC notched a 16.5 with the episode of Grey’s Anatomy that followed Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5, 2006.

The Voice improved on Fox’s year-ago post-Super Bowl Glee broadcast by 47 percent (16.3 vs. 11.1).

Sponsors shelled out an average $3.5 million per 30 seconds of airtime, making Super Bowl XLVI the priciest TV buy in history. As is customary during America’s great secular holiday, those commercial messages represented a big part of the fun. According to Networked Insights, the ads accounted for 42 percent of all the social media conversation that took place during the game.

While adland continues to chew over the Super Bowl spots, the old strategy of tossing a dog into the creative mix continued to bear fruit. According to the integrated marketing firm McKee Wallwork Cleveland, four of the top five most popular commercials featured a canine star: Volkswagen’s “Dog Strikes Back,” Doritos’ “Man’s Best Friend,” Bud Light’s “Rescue Dog” and Skechers’ “Mr. Quiggly.”