NBC Will Have the Most Watched TV Show of All Time with Super Bowl XLVI

James WilliamsAnalyst IIIFebruary 4, 2012

Tom Brady will help NBC grab the ratings on Sunday night
Tom Brady will help NBC grab the ratings on Sunday nightRob Carr/Getty Images

When Americans think of the most watched television shows they picture the famous episode of Dallas that had the entire country wondering “Who shot J.R.?” It was the first show to break the 100 million viewer mark.

Many recall that the final episode of M*A*S*H was the highest rated television show in history with a total audience of 105 million viewers when it aired on CBS Saturday night, Feb. 28, 1983.

But that record, which stood for 27 years, has been broken twice in the last two years. The first time by the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts who racked up an impressive 106.5 million viewers for Super Bowl XLIV.

That record lasted only one year as last year’s Green Bay win over Pittsburgh in Dallas at Super Bowl XLV was viewed by 111 million viewers, making it the most watched television program in American broadcast history.

This year it is New York, the country’s largest media market, facing New England, which represents the sixth largest market in the country. You have Tom Brady vs. Eli Manning in a rematch of the 2007 Super Bowl game which the Giants won in dramatic fashion.

In a press conference this week, NBC Sports President Mark Lazarus was very honest when he said "the opportunity" to again break the viewer record exists." That is as close as a network executive will come to saying "we feel we are getting that record."  

I can see this year’s game getting to the 112 million viewer mark and if the game is close, maybe even more. The NFL has become a ratings monster and the Super Bowl has a large number of casual fans who will be there to see Brady and Manning. So for the folks at NBC, you have the perfect ratings storm.  

One last thing during the press conference this week: TV producer Fred Gaudelli spoke about some cool new production elements that will make the game even more fun to watch:

“There will be quite a few new production elements in terms of the graphics that we use to display information in terms of what we'll do to personalize players. We just did some extensive photo shoots with both teams to try to give people a sense of the player without the helmet on and what he looks like and where he's from, and hopefully his personality.

"With the Super Bowl, everything is bigger and bolder in terms of the presentation, and that will certainly be so. But when it comes right down to it, it's all about how we're going to cover this game. To me, that is the ultimate litmus test. How well will we do? We expect to do very well.”