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Super Bowl XLVIII Was Most-Watched TV Program in US History

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Super Bowl XLVIII Was Most-Watched TV Program in US History
John Minchillo/Associated Press

Super Bowl XLVIII was the most popular in history.

OK, so that may not be true in terms of interest. Most people outside of Seattle grew increasingly bored as the Seahawks raced to a dominant 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos to capture the first Lombardi Trophy in franchise history.

But in terms of eyes on TV screens, it ranked No. 1.

Via Sara Bibel at TVbytheNumbers.com, CNN's Brian Stelter provides the news from Fox's press release on the game's viewership:

Per the release, that number, which represents the number of viewers watching on average, surpasses the previous record of 111.3 million set during Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 when the New York Giants knocked off the New England Patriots, 21-17.

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Heading into Super Sunday, it was never difficult to find a reason to be interested in this game.

The NFL's No. 1 offense, led by future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manningwho also broke the single-season record for passing yards and passing touchdowns this yeartook on the No. 1 defense, led by a ferocious secondary that flies to the ball and delivers punishing hits. Throw in the fact that it was the first Super Bowl ever to be played outdoors in a cold-weather location held in the nation's biggest media market, and the storylines were endless.

"We wouldn’t have it any other way," said Richard Sherman, via the Seattle Times' Bob Condotta. "They’re an unbelievable, record-setting offense with a hall of fame quarterback.  That’s as tough as it gets.  That’s as tough a game as you can get in the Super Bowl."

What's surprising is that, according to the release, viewership hardly declined as the game wore on and the Seahawks turned it into a blowout:

Ratings climbed through the first half and peaked at a 47.9/71 from 7:30-8:00 PM ET as Seattle established a commanding 22-0 halftime lead. Viewership remained impressively high through the fourth quarter despite the fact that Seattle had the game well in hand. The game earned a 44.0/63 from 9:30-conclusion, meaning that even in the closing minutes the rating was only 5% lower than it was for the entire game.

Of course, as the release states, three of the last four Super Bowls have now set average viewership records, so this is also as much about the rising popularity of the game—or perhaps more accurately, the "event"—as it was about the actual matchup of the teams.

Other records were set on Sunday as well.

The live stream was the most-viewed sporting event ever, and according to SportsBusiness Journal's John Ourand, more people witnessed the halftime show than ever before:

The game was also a huge hit on social media, as Twitter Sports proved with a map of the social network's use during the matchup:

Not only that, but the advertising itself had connections to social media, as Doug Gross of CNN pointed out:

For the first time, more than half of all commercials aired during the big game included a social hashtag.

From Chevy's #SilveradoStrong to Coke's #AmericaIsBeautiful, 57% of the ads featured hashtags, those searchable terms that have spread from Twitter to Instagram, Facebook and other platforms. That's up from 50% last year and 7% the year before -- a remarkable ascent, considering that Audi made news just three years ago when it became the first Super Bowl advertiser to push to Twitter.

The pull of the NFL is unbelievable. Despite a historically lopsided affair, the Super Bowl, which only continues to gain popularity, didn't see its numbers negatively affected in the slightest. 

No matter who reaches the championship in the coming years, you can expect this record to be broken as commissioner Roger Goodell only further expands the brand of the NFL.

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