The Super Bowl was watched by more than 106 million people, surpassing the 1983 finale of "M*A*S*H" to become the most-watched program in television history.
The Nielsen Co. estimated Monday that 106.5 million people watched the New Orleans Saints upset the Indianapolis Colts. That beats the "M*A*S*H" finale, which had 105.97 million viewers in an era when there were fewer television sets.
Compelling story lines involving the city of New Orleans and its recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the quest for a second Super Bowl ring for Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning propelled the viewership.
The game also obliterated the previous record viewership for a Super Bowl—last year's game between Arizona and Pittsburgh in which 98.7 million people watched.
CBS Corp. said 46 percent of U.S. homes watched the game, a 10-percent increase from last year and the highest in 23 years.
The Saints’ 31-17 victory over the Colts had a 68 percent share, New York-based CBS said Monday in an e-mail, citing preliminary data. Last year's championship on NBC posted an initial rating of 42.1. Each rating point equals 1 percent of the 114.9 million U.S. television households.
Additional information, including total viewers, will be released later Monday. CBS, owner of the most watched U.S. network, sold more than $206 million in Super Bowl ads, exceeding the record reported by NBC last year, Sean McManus, who oversees CBS Sports, said in a Feb. 4 interview. The network sold out its commercial time six days before the broadcast.
- Bloomberg News contributed to this story.