Giants Win over the Patriots the Most Watched Television Show in History

James WilliamsAnalyst IIIFebruary 6, 2012

Eli Manning was not the only winner last night as NBC as NBC scored big.
Eli Manning was not the only winner last night as NBC as NBC scored big.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

As expected, yesterday’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI was the most-watched television program in U.S. history and the highest-rated Super Bowl in 26 years, according to fast national data released today by The Nielsen Company and NBC.

According to data supplied by the network, the game 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. This is the biggest audience to watch a television program in U.S. history.

The NBC broadcast, which narrowly beat last year’s game earning a 47.0 rating and a 71 share, a gain of two percent from last year’s 46.0/69 for Super Bowl XLV, is 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 according to the stats provided by NBC.

*For those who do not understand how the game was the sixth highest rated, it should be noted there are both more television homes now, as well as a larger population. So a smaller rating can still translate into more actual viewers.   

Here is the list of top five most watched television programs of all time.

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

Also of note are the hourly splits on how many people watched the game. (Data provided by The Nielsen Company and NBC)

6:31-7:00, 99.2 million

7:01-7:30, 107.9 million

7:31-8:00, 110.9 million

8:01-8:30, 114.0 million

8:31-9:00, 114.3 million

9:01-9:30, 115.4 million

9:30-9:58, 117.7 million

Lastly, the halftime show with Madonna was, according to the Nielsen Company and NBC, the most watched in Super Bowl history. The show aired 8:00-8:30 p.m. ET and  was seen by 114.0 million viewers, nearly four million more than last year’s performance featuring the Black Eyed Peas (110.3 million). It is the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show featuring entertainment ever (dating back to 1991).