NBC's Super Bowl draws strong ratings

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NBC's presentation of Super Bowl XLIII was the second-most-watched ever for the sports franchise, falling just shy of last year's record game. Yet the network's special presentation of "The Office" fell short of most post-Bowl entertainment telecasts.

The Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Arizona Cardinals nail-biter averaged 95.4 million viewers during its four-hour-plus telecast. That's down a mere 2% from last year's game, but is still a very formidable total and on par with 2007's game.

"The Super Bowl, once again, proved its ability to captivate America," NBC Universal Sports chairman Dick Ebersol said. "The National Football League should feel a great sense of pride in providing a day of enjoyment to American families -- especially those who are struggling in these difficult times. Many people doubted this matchup, but it's the Super Bowl not the matchup that draws an enormous audience."

"We are in a great place to be in relation to last year's historic and unimaginable game when an undefeated powerhouse was upset by an underdog from the country's largest media market," he added. "Recording the two biggest Super Bowl audiences in history in two consecutive years proves that the NFL is stronger than ever. These numbers confirm the power and consistency of the Super Bowl as the top property in all of television."

The Super Bowl rating peaked around 10 p.m. when nearly half of America's television homes were tuned in.

In 2008, a record-setting total of 97.5 million Americans tuned in for Fox's Super Bowl coverage where the New York Giants beat the New England Patriots. The highest-rated Super Bowl of all time was 1982's Super Bowl XVI.

NBC's postgame presentation of "The Office" was less successful, registering 22 million viewers and a 10.6 rating among adults 18-49.

The "Office" rating doubles the show's prior high and marks NBC's highest-rated entertainment telecast since 2004. But "The Office" falls below four of the last five post-Bowl programming telecasts (see below), with only ABC's presentation of female-skewing "Grey's Anatomy" in 2006 drawing a smaller audience in recent years.

NBC been criticized for picking the Thursday comedy for the coveted spot. The network has several troublesome hours and a few new shows coming up, but "The Office" is performing solidly and isn't expected to improve much from added exposure.
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