The world’s greatest sporting event has cemented its place in pop-culture history by netting the most amount of Americans to ever watch a TV show. And not even Christina Aguilera’s flub or Groupon’s offensive ad could do anything about it.
In fact, they probably contributed to the 111 million viewers that tuned in for Sunday’s thrilling Super Bowl between the victorious Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers. The NFL’s showpiece game actually broke its own record, with five million more tuning in this year compared to 2010’s showdown between the New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts.
(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 Super Bowl moments)
Until then, the series finale of M*A*S*H had famously held the record for 27 years with an impressive tally of just under 106 million, but now the Super Bowl has taken over the top two spots, as well as numbers four and five. “Super Bowl XLV caps what is arguably the most successful season that any sports league has ever had,” said Pat McDonough, senior vice president for insight and analysis at the Nielsen Co. “The number of people watching NFL games has never been higher, with 24% more people watching the average NFL game this year than just five years ago. The Super Bowl continues to be in a category of its own.”
But the obvious caveat must be that the powers that be in the NFL will be working — ahem — overtime to make sure that there is football next season, with the owners and players in dispute over the proposed 18 game season.
But as those negotiations get underway, it’s worth looking back at the landmark moments from Sunday. The most-watched single play was Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger’s final incomplete pass in the final minute, according to TiVo. This is even more remarkable when you consider that the Packers had been leading 21-3 during the first half and the network showing the game this year, Fox, must have been worried that the audience’s attention would wane.
No such thing. In fact, the Steelers stirring comeback that literally fell just short (and bear in mind, no team has ever come back from a double-digit deficit) wasn’t the only talking point as Christina Aguilera’s mucking up of the national anthem pre-match had already set the social networks abuzz. And then there are the commercials. Putting aside the controversy surrounding Groupon’s rather brave take on Tibet, the popular spots went to the duets. TiVo judged the Snickers commercial starring comedians Richard Lewis and Roseanne Barr the highest-rated (TiVo works this out via a calculation to do with viewership and the rewinding of DVRs) with second place going to Best Buy, which had Justin Bieber and Ozzy Osbourne.
(More on TIME.com: See all this year’s Super Bowl commericals.)
Despite extremely lukewarm reviews, the half-time show by the Black Eyed Peas held its own, in terms of viewer engagement, and Fox’s following show, Glee, truly benefited from audience inheritance, pulling in a staggering 26.8 million viewers. According to Nielsen, that’s the most-watched scripted entertainment program since the same network’s post-Super Bowl episode of House three years ago. Were we ready for some football? It seems that we were. (via AP)