A whopping 111 million viewers tuned in to FOX on Sunday to watch the Green Bay Packers’ victory in Super Bowl XLV, a new record, according to Nielsen Co. figures released Monday.
The staggering tally clobbered last year’s 106.5 million viewership, which was itself a new record. The 1983 series finale of "M*A*S*H," which was the most-watched program ever for nearly three decades, now sits in third place.
Counting those who caught at least part of the Packers’ 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium, some 162.9 million people watched the game — nearly 10 million more than a year earlier.
"Obviously, we’re thrilled with the ratings and new audience record FOX set for Super Bowl XLV," said David Hill, chairman of FOX Sports Media Group. "We had a great pregame show that led into a terrific broadcast featuring two of the NFL’s oldest, most storied franchises, with the outcome in doubt until the final minute. It all combined into a perfect storm that made television history."
The game also had a 71 share — meaning that more than two-thirds of the televisions being watched in the country at that time were watching the Super Bowl on FOX. That’s the highest audience share for a Super Bowl since 1982, a time when there were far fewer television networks as competition.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday that preliminary TV ratings show the game is "on track to be the most-watched show in television history."
"So we’re excited about the fan reaction," he said.
Some analysts suggested that the matchup between two storied franchises in addition to the cold weather across much of the country helped boost the viewership, according to The Wall Street Journal.
But the numbers marked the fourth consecutive year of record-breaking ratings for the NFL’s championship game.
In fact, an average of 17.9 million people tuned in during the NFL regular season, which is up 7.6 percent from the previous season, according to The Journal.
Super Bowl viewership was heaviest in Milwaukee — the closest major city to Green Bay measured by Nielsen — and Pittsburgh. In those cities, nearly 90 percent of televisions turned on during the game were tuned in to the matchup.
And in the crucial media market of New York, some 63 percent of televisions turned on were watching the game — the highest in 28 years for a contest not involving the hometown Jets or Giants.
The most-watched moment of the Super Bowl was Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final incomplete pass, which essentially clinched the game for Green Bay, according to TiVo Inc., the digital video recorder maker. At least initially, there was some debate among announcers about whether receiver Mike Wallace had been interfered with.
The average Super Bowl viewer with a DVR either paused, rewound or fast-forwarded 145 times during the game, TiVo said.
NewsCore and The Associated Press contributed to this report.