Saints ‘Super’ Win Unseats M*A*S*H

Sunday’s matchup between the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints broke the record books, outperforming the prior high set by the series finale of sitcom M*A*S*H in February 1983. Super Bowl XLIV averaged a mammoth 106.48 million viewers, according to the preliminary national results from Nielsen Media Research, building by 8 percent from the year-ago Pittsburgh/Arizona matchup (98.73 million on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2009).

Here are the five most-watched Super Bowl telecasts historically:

Super Bowl XLIV (CBS, Feb. 7, 2010), New Orleans/Indianapolis: 106.48 million
Super Bowl XLIII (NBC, Feb. 1, 2009), Arizona/Pittsburgh: 98.73 million
Super Bowl XLII (Fox, Feb. 3, 2008): NY Giants/New England: 97.45 million
Super Bowl XXXX (NBC, Jan. 28, 1996): Dallas Pittsburgh: 94.08 million
Super Bowl XLI (CBS, Feb. 4, 2007): Chicago/Indianapolis: 93.18 million

The series-premiere/preview of nonscripted lead-out Undercover Boss clearly benefited, with 38.61 million viewers from 10:13-11:13 p.m.

Comparably, that was the largest audience for any new series following The Super Bowl since the advent of people meters in 1987, the largest debut of any reality series ever and the most-watched new series premiere overall on television since ABC’s The Dolly Show on Sept. 27, 1987. 

The debut of Undercover Boss also scored the largest audience for an entertainment program this season, and the third-largest post Super Bowl audience behind NBC’s Friends on Jan. 28, 1996 and CBS’ Survivor: The Australian Outback on Jan. 28, 2001.

To watch all of last night’s Super Bowl ads, go to AdweekMedia’s Super Bowl site.