Super Bowl: TV’s Big Score

Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Biggest ratings event ever? Likely. Numbers for the big game could jump 8%, and Americans offer their opinions on the matchup, the ads and that episode of ‘Glee.’

Super Bowl XLV will almost certainly be the most-watched program in U.S. television history. Why? Consider the odd alignment of the TV planets: The NFL has been on a ratings tear this season, with telecasts on Fox, which is broadcasting the big game, averaging 20.1 million viewers, surpassing the network’s record of 19.1 million set in 2009. And though the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers play in media markets ranked 23rd and 70th, respectively, both have storied histories and ardent nationwide fan bases that belie their small-market stature. The Steelers, for instance, have played in two of the five most-watched Super Bowls in history (1996 and 2009). Plus, the Feb. 6 game is being played at the new home of “America’s Team,” the Dallas Cowboys. For these reasons and others, a THR/Penn Schoen Berland poll suggests viewership could rise 8 percent over last year’s game, which drew a record 106 million viewers, eclipsing the 1983 M*A*S*H finale as the most-watched telecast ever. “This is an epic match-up for Fox and its advertisers,” says lead pollster Jon Penn, who surveyed 750 Americans ages 13-64 on Jan. 23-24. “We have two of America’s favorite teams playing on America’s favorite football network in a game that America thinks is a tossup.” The poll reveals just how important the Super Bowl is in U.S. culture, with male respondents ranking it more important than their wedding anniversaries. “It’s a live, shared experience of 21st century Americana that celebrates competition, community, pop culture and consumption,” Penn says.