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Saints kick Colts at Super Bowl XLIV to set TV viewing record

[This report has been updated]

Mother Nature and the Saints have bestowed a new TV record on Super Bowl XLIV.

Nielsen reports that 106.5 million people watched the underdog New Orleans Saints win the Miami showdown with the Indianapolis Colts -- the largest audience in TV history for a single broadcast.

That viewing crowd handily beat last year's Pittsburgh Steelers vs Arizona Cardinals Super Bowl, which had averaged 98.7 million viewers, on NBC.

It also beats the series finale of "M*A*S*H," which had held the record as the most watched broadcast in U.S. television history, with an average audience of 106 million (actually 105.97 million).

(Frankly, "M*A*S*H's" nearly 27-year record remains the more impressive stat, given that when its series mop-up aired on Feb. 28, 1983 the country had about 75 million fewer people than today (308 million today), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Not surprisingly, Super Bowl enjoyed its biggest ratings in New Orleans, where 56.6 percent of TV homes were tuned into the game Sunday night. Thanks to Mother Nature, barely behind New Orleans was Washington. D.C. where a snowbound 56 percent of TV homes were glued to the game. About 54 percent of the TV homes in Indianapolis, meanwhile, watched the matchup, behind Nashville.

Though Sunday's game proved to be among the franchise's zippier - the Saints, in their first ever Super Bowl appearance, recovered from a first quarter rout to humiliate the Colts, 31-17, including a fourth-quarter Peyton Manning pass interception which Saints cornerback Tracy Porter ran back for a touchdown.

But CBS, which broadcast this year's Super Bowl, also owes a big wet kiss to Mother Nature who had rendered millions of potential viewers housebound Sunday night with a weekend snowstorm that buried the mid-Atlantic region. A record 32.4 inches fell on Dulles International Airport over two days.

The heavy snow across mid-Atlantic -- including Washington D.C. -- prevented people from going to someone else's house -- or, better yet, to a sports bar -- to watch the game. Sunday's game may not actually have attracted more viewers than last year's game -- just more miserable ones. Or, if you prefer, more "at-home" ones. Nielsen still does not clock out-of home viewing in its daily numbers, notes well-known TV analyst Steve Sternberg.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  February 8, 2010; 2:24 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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Next: Ellen DeGeneres makes long-awaited debut on 'Idol'


"(Frankly, "M*A*S*H's" nearly 27-year record remains the more impressive stat, given that when its series mop-up aired on Feb. 28, 1983 the country had about 75 million fewer people than today (308 million today), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.)"

...who only had 4 channels to choose from.

Posted by: ThisGuy | February 8, 2010 7:42 PM | Report abuse

Well, Lisa,
Both my mother and my husband's mother hailed from Cajun Louisiana.
With no weather problems in Southeast Texas, we watched the SuperBowl in its entirety for the first time in about 20 years.
We called our relatives before the game and, when they answered, asked, "Who Dat?"
It was lots of fun.
My husband kidded his aunt who votes Republican, telling her that Republicans were reported rooting for the Colts.
She answered with a fierce pride:
"Politics don't count today!"
We all laughed heartily.
It was a great day for battered old New Orleans.
They richly deserved this win, just the crown of a growing return of Mardi Gras and tourism.
Geaux Saints!

Posted by: Judy-in-TX | February 8, 2010 7:49 PM | Report abuse

Love the Saints. Great game. Terrible Halftime show!! Please, NFL: No more Senior Citizen Halftime Shows!!!!

Posted by: PepperDr | February 8, 2010 8:39 PM | Report abuse

First of all, Geaux Saints.

Aside from that, I posted a comment below Lisa's main article about the terrible, terrible coverage the Post has had during the course of this winter storm.

It's one thing to publish editions that are smaller than the county weekly (and have less ads due to the Post's incessant quest for revenue rates) "because of the storm..."

It's another to do so without comment, and to fail to commemorate the Saints' victory above the fold on Monday. And the kicker?

Above the masthead on Monday, in huge caps, the Paper reads: "CAPS BEAT PENGUINS: WIN STREAK HITS 14".

Posted by: BRobinsn | February 9, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm not sure it even counts as a newspaper anymore.

If it's smaller than the county weekly, and directs you to the website for all extended Super Bowl coverage...

And doesn't even print a commemorative Super Bowl edition...

Looks like the Graham family wants to emulate the Examiner and the Times, giving us three right-wing 30-page lunchbox dailies instead of two.

Posted by: BRobinsn | February 9, 2010 8:36 PM | Report abuse

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