Super Bowl XLVI between the Giants and the Patriots did indeed break the all time viewership record as predicted by many before the game. Even though the game was only the third highest Super Bowl in terms of overnight ratings (averaging a selection of the biggest markets around the country), the game drew an average of 111.3 million viewers. That number barely squeaks by the 111 million viewers from last year's game as reported by Richard Sandomir of the New York Times.
It's now the third consecutive year that the Super Bowl has set the all time viewership record. Saints-Colts, Packers-Steelers, and now Giants-Patriots are the three most watched events in the history of American television:
1) Super Bowl XLVI - 111.3 million viewers
2) Super Bowl XLV - 111 million viewers
3) Super Bowl XLIV - 106.5 million viewers
Frankly, I'm quite surprised the number wasn't much higher considering the large ratings in New York and Boston, the marquee players, teams, and storylines, and the fact that the game went down to a final play Hail Mary and was close throughout. The 111.3 million viewers is well below the Over/Under number set at 117 million viewers before the game. Even Madonna's halftime show drew a higher than average audience for the game at 114 million viewers! I was expecting a number around 118-120 million viewers given how the game played out and the year-to-year growth over the last few Super Bowls. The game peaked at 117.7 million for the final minutes.
It's amazing to think that the total number of average viewers was just 86.1 million viewers for Patriots-Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX. Odds should be in favor of another record being set next year if we're fortunate enough to see another close game.