Viewership as sturdy as steel

Biggest audiences in Super Bowl history have come in the past two years

NBC's presentation of Super Bowl XLIII was the second-most-watched ever for the title game, falling just shy of last year's contest.

The Pittsburgh Steelers- 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 and on par with 2007's game.

However, the network's special one-hour presentation of "The Office" fell short of most recent post-Bowl entertainment telecasts.

"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. Recording the two biggest Super Bowl audiences in history in two consecutive years proves that the NFL is stronger than ever."

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

In 2008, a record-setting total of 97.5 million Americans watched Fox's coverage of the New York Giants' victory over the New England Patriots. The highest-rated Super Bowl of all time was the 1982 San Francisco-Cincinnati game.

Despite Sunday's game keeping viewers engrossed until the very end, NBC's 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 previous high and marks NBC's highest-rated entertainment telecast since 2004. But "The Office" fell below the past five post-Bowl programming telecasts, marking the least watched since Fox aired an hour of "The Simpsons" and "American Dad" in 2005.