Packers take title as Super Bowl sets new audience record


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It was another record audience for the Super Bowl as 111 million tuned in to Fox to watch the Green Bay Packers trip up the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 and take home the Lombardi trophy, according to Nielsen.

That number makes the 2011 NFL championship game the most watched event in U.S. history. It shattered last year’s record audience of a 106.5 million for the battle between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints. The Saints win had broken the almost 30-year-old mark for an audience held by the last episode of the legendary CBS war comedy ‘MASH.’


For Fox, a network that will mark the 25th anniversary of the launch of its first show ever later this fall, it now owns a record for most watched TV night in the history of television.

The big Super Bowl number caps a huge year for the NFL, which saw ratings growth on all its networks. However, a dark cloud is on the horizon as the league still does not have a new labor deal with the players and the old one expires next month. Besides trying to refigure the revenue split between the league and players, the league also wants to extend the season to 18 games. The players, concerned about injuries, are against adding two more games to the season.

Of the 111 million viewers that watched the game, 26.8 million stuck around through the post-game to check out Fox’s special episode of ‘Glee.’ That number may be a record for the show, but the drop off of viewers from the game and post-game programming is fairly dramatic. ‘Glee,’ a series set in high school with lots of musical numbers, was seen as something of a risky choice for Fox to air after the Super Bowl because its biggest appeal is with females and kids.

‘Glee’ was not helped by how late the game ran. Last year, CBS was able to start the premiere episode of its reality show ‘Undercover Boss’ at 10:13 p.m. on the East Coast and get an audience of almost 40 million. ‘Glee’ did not start until 10:39 p.m. Fox generally runs a longer post-game show than the other networks.

The numbers for ‘Glee,’ while down from ‘Undercover Boss,’ were bigger than what NBC scored in 2009 when it went with an episode of ‘The Office’ after its coverage of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ last-minute win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Fox’s pregame coverage featured Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly interviewing President Obama. The interveiw ran fifteen minutes and started at 4:45 p.m. The half-hour of 4:30 - 5 p.m. averaged 17.3 million viewers.


The game may have set a new mark, but the day was not glitch free. First, about 400 fans ended up not getting seats at the game even though they had tickets because the sections they were supposed to sit in were declared unsafe. While big refunds were offered and hasty accommodations made, it was a big blunder. Then Christina Aguilera botched the lyrics to the national anthem and the halftime show had technical issues as well.

On the field though, the fans got their money’s worth. While Green Bay jumped out to a 21-3 lead in the second quarter, the Steelers fought back and made a game of it.

-- Joe Flint

For the record: This post was updated to include the audience for Bill O’Reilly’s interview with President Obama.