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Saints’ Super Bowl win beats 1983 M.A.S.H finale record

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By Nick Harris

8 February 2010

The New Orleans Saints’ victory over the Indianapolis Colts in last night’s Super Bowl in Miami was the most-watched TV show in American history, beating the 27-year-old ratings record set by the final edition of M.A.S.H in 1983. Figures just released show that yesterday’s game attracted 106.7m viewers in the US alone, which also makes it the most-watched NFL game in history, according to CBS, which also broadcast that famous M.A.S.H episode. That had an audience of 105.97m viewers.

The broadcaster said 46 per cent of US homes watched Saints win 31-17, with the triumph sealed in stunning fashion by Tracy Porter’s 74-yard interception touchdown late in the fourth quarter. (Those who can’t access the BBC for whatever reason can see the same clip, with an HD option, albeit with an advert to endure first, at the NFL website here).

This year’s showpiece was the Saints’ first Super Bowl appearance, and their participation was a crowd-puller partly because of the emotional narrative. New Orleans was devastated in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina, an event that killed more than 1,800 people, caused £100bn of damage and destroyed neighbourhoods in New Orleans. Saints have, in the public imagination, been galvanised since then to perform for their city.

The 46 per cent of homes that tuned in represented an increase of 10 per cent on the corresponding numbers for the 2009 Super Bowl, which attracted 42.1 per cent of households, equating to 98.7m Americans. That was most watched Super Bowl in history to that point, in overall viewers. Numerous previous Super Bowls have had a greater percentage of households tuning in, but in times when the population of the USA was smaller. Yesterday’s game should thus be confirmed as the most-watched in history when the final numbers are released.

The Saint’s win had 68 per cent share of Sunday evening’s TV audience in America, up from 65 per cent in 2009, when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals. The US has 114.9m TV households, so each ratings point equals one per cent of that, or 1.149m households. Without specifying total revenue, CBS said it sold more than the $206m in Super Bowl ads sold by NBC last year to set the previous record. A 30-second ad during the match typically cost around $3m, and Google paid $5m for a one-minute slot. Numerous surveys across America and beyond, including the one linked here, have tried to ascertain the most popular ad of 110 that were shown during last night’s broadcast. The New York Times concluded that nostalgia was a safe seller.

As sportingintelligence reported last week, a global survey of viewing data for 2009 showed that despite its continued growth in popularity, the Super Bowl has just been toppled as the most-watched event in the world in club sport by Uefa’s Champions League final.

Super Bowl remains pre-eminent among the most lucrative events in world sport, however, with Forbes’ new survey of the “Fab 40″ top sports brands in the world placing Super Bowl at No1 in its events category. Forbes have four top 10s: athletes, businesses, teams and events. According to the Forbes website: “To determine our list, we ranked athletes based on endorsement income relative to peers in their sport; businesses based on the amount of the enterprise’s private market value attributable to its name; teams based on the portion of their overall value not a result of market demographics and league; and events based on revenue generated per day of competition. While polls can provide a whimsical take on how someone feels at a particular moment, our brand values quantify the equity built up in a name over many years.”

The lists are dominated by American sports, businesses, teams, athletes and events. It would be interesting to know, for example, how the Champions League final would compare to the Kentucky Derby (10th event on Forbes list), or how the Monaco Grand Prix compares. Neither make an appearance, an anomaly we’ll come back to at some point.  Forbes top 10 events are apparently calculated on media, sponsorship, ticketing and licensed merchandise generated “per event day of competition”. That list in full: 1 Super Bowl $420m; 2 Summer Olympics $230m; 3 World Cup $120m; 4 European Championships $110m; 5 World Series baseball, $105m; 6 Daytona 500, $100m; 7 Winter Olympics, $93m; 8 NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball, $90m; 9 MLB All-Star week in baseball, $75m; 10 Kentucky Derby, $67m.

Manchester United were the top team brand in world sport, ahead of the New York Yankees, Real Madrid, Dallas Cowboys, Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Milan, Barcelona, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox. Tiger Woods was the No1 athlete, way ahead of  David Beckham, Roger Federer, Dale Earnhardt, Le Bron James, Kobe Bryant, Phil Mickelson, Maria Sharapova, Tony Hawk and Jeff Gordon. The most valuable sports brand was Nike, followed by EPSN, adidas, Gatorade, Reebok, Sky Sports, EA Sports, Under Armor, YES Network and IMG.


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