Sunday’s Super Bowl kept the officials scrambling to review hard-to-call plays on the field, so maybe it’s no surprise that the TV ratings needed a thorough look too.
After examining the numbers more closely, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday that NBC’s game actually delivered an average of 98.7 million total viewers, making it the most-watched Super Bowl ever and the No. 2 telecast of all time, behind only the 1983 series finale of “MASH” with 106 million.
On Monday, Nielsen had said the game had drawn 95.4 million viewers, putting it behind last year’s Super Bowl on Fox in which the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots (97.5 million).
So why the disparity?
Nielsen’s Monday numbers were actually preliminary results, called “fast nationals” in ratings lingo. These early statistics are always subject to further review and indeed often rise after Nielsen considers additional data. But the size of the discrepancy in this case, more than 3%, took some observers by surprise.
In a statement, a Nielsen spokeswoman said that the difference amounted to “standard procedure” but added that the company was looking to see if there were “additional factors” at play.
Alan Wurtzel, NBC’s president of research and media development, said, “Nielsen agrees that there was a problem that caused an enormous disparity in the preliminary and final numbers. They are looking into the problem. But the final report card is accurate.”
NBC estimates that nearly 152 million viewers watched at least six minutes of the Sunday game.