The Saints beat the Colts, and the Super Bowl they played beat out every other telecast in history to become the most-watched TV program of all time.
According to The Nielsen Company, Super Bowl XLIV was viewed in 51.7 million households and attracted an average audience of 106.5 million U.S. viewers. The game between New Orleans and Indianapolis scored more viewers than the previously-most-watched TV program ever, the 1983 finale of "M*A*S*H."
It should be noted that while Sunday's Super Bowl broke the record for most watched program of all time, it didn't beat "M*A*S*H's" record of highest-rated program of all time. 60.2 percent of U.S. households watched M*A*S*H in 1983, compared with Super Bowl XLIV's 45 percent. 1977's broadcast of "Roots, Part VIII" (ABC) and 1976's broadcast of "Gone With the Wind" (NBC) also beat the latest Super Bowl in terms of ratings, though not the number of viewers.
What other telecasts rank among the top 10 viewed programs in American TV history? Check out the list below, courtesy of the Nielsen Company:
Top 10 Network Telecasts
- 1. Super Bowl XLIV (Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints), CBS, Feb. 7, 2010; viewed by 51.7 million households.
- 2. "M*A*S*H" finale, CBS, Feb. 28, 1983; viewed by 50.2 million households.
- 3. Super Bowl XLII (New York Giants vs. New England Patriots), FOX, Feb. 3, 2008; viewed by 48.7 million households.
- 4. Super Bowl XLIII (Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals), NBC, Feb. 1, 2009; viewed by 48.1 million households.
- 5. Super Bowl XLI (Indianapolis Colts vs. Chicago Bears), CBS, Feb. 4, 2007; viewed by 47.5 milion households.
- 6. Super Bowl XL (Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Seattle Seahawks), ABC, Feb. 5, 2006; viewed by 45.9 million households.
- 7. XVII Winter Olympics, CBS, Feb. 23, 1994; viewed by 45.7 million households.
- 8. Super Bowl XXXIX (New England Patriots vs. Philadelphia Eagles), Fox, Feb. 6, 2005; viewed by 45.1 million households.
- 9. Super Bowl XXXVIII (Carolina Panthers vs. New England Patriots), CBS, Feb. 1, 2004; viewed by 45 million households.
- 10. Super Bowl XXX (Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers), NBC, Jan. 28, 1996; viewed by 44.2 million households.