The first live stream of the Super Bowl drew 2.1 million unique viewers, NBC said Thursday.
That's a small fraction of the record 111.3 million viewers that watched NBC's broadcast of the big game. But it was still enough to make it the most-watched single-game sports event online, according to the network.
Kevin Monaghan, managing director of digital media for NBC Sports Group, said the live stream "exceeded our expectations in every way."
The New York Giants 21-17 win over the New England Patriots was streamed on NBCSports.com and NFL.com. The Internet webcast included optional camera views, tweeting from a handful of personalities and HD-quality video. But it didn't feature the live TV broadcast commercials (they were clickable for on-demand viewing) or the Madonna halftime show, and the feed lagged behind the broadcast.
The webcast was available on some mobile phones from Verizon.
Monaghan framed the live stream not as an alternate viewing option from broadcast, but as "a complementary 'second screen' experience" to the televised game.
Previous major sporting events streamed live include the 2010 World Cup by ESPN, the 2010 Olympics by NBC and the annual NCAA men's basketball tournament by CBS and Turner Sports. More recently, ESPN offered live streams of this year's Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, though both of those games were watched by less than 400,000.
In the 2010 World Cup, ESPN said 1.1 million people watched at least some part of the USA's win over Algeria on its website.
But no sporting event is bigger in the U.S. than the Super Bowl, and NBC's first live stream of the game was surely a milestone in sports viewing. The Super Bowl stream had an average user engagement of 39 minutes per visit.
Hans Schroeder, senior vice president of media strategy and development for the NFL, said the league "will continue to look for more ways to reach our fans."