Will Super Bowl XLVIII Beat Goodbye, Farewell and Amen?


Super Bowl XLVIII will be played tomorrow afternoon, weather permitting, between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. The game starts at 6:25PM Eastern but FOX’s coverage kicks off at 6PM. I’ve never actually seen a Super Bowl and had to look up the teams participating this year. My interest in the big game relates solely to its ratings and whether the number of viewers tuning in each year will top the 105.9 who watched the series finale of M*A*S*H back in February 1983.

That episode (“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” originally broadcast February 28th, 1983) was for 27 years the single most-watched television broadcast in the United States. Its record was finally broken in 2010 by Super Bowl XLIV and the three Super Bowls since then have also been watched by more viewers, making “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” the fifth most-watched broadcast of all time. Here’s a handy chart:

Most-Watched Television Broadcasts in U.S. History
Program Year Average Viewers
Super Bowl XLVI 2012 111,346,000
Super Bowl XLV 2011 111,010,000
Super Bowl XLVII 2013 108,693,000
Super Bowl XLIV 2010 106,476,000
“Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” 1983 105,970,000

Bragging rights are fun but fans of M*A*S*H shouldn’t really be bothered that more people have watched the last four Super Bowls than the last episode of M*A*S*H. In fact, it was probably inevitable given the continued popularity of football in this country and simple population increase. Plus, “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” is still the highest-rated single program with a 60.2 Nielsen rating. By comparison, the highest-rated Super Bowl (XVI, 1982) averaged a 49.1 rating and the most-watched (XLVI, 2012) a 47.0 rating. So there are plenty of bragging rights to go around.

How will Super Bowl XLVIII fare? Brad Adgate of Forbes predicts the game tomorrow will break the viewership record set in 2012 by Super Bowl XLVI, as did most respondents to a Media Life Magazine poll.

5 Replies to “Will Super Bowl XLVIII Beat Goodbye, Farewell and Amen?”

  1. Of course this year’s Super Bowl is going to be the most-watched program ever. At this rate, in another five years, GFA will no longer even be in the top ten most watched programs in TV history, because ensuing future Super Bowl games will garner more and more viewership.

  2. Well, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I think that sitcoms and sports are really two different types of programming. The big sporting events on TV do tend to draw in the big viewership numbers. But, for a sitcom to draw in those kinds of numbers require something special, something more, in order to have that many viewers. How many Super Bowl viewers could care less with who wins? I’d say that number might be more than expected, that many tune in to simply say they watched it or even just to watch the commercials. I’d say that most viewers tuned in to watch GFA, simply because they loved the show and truly cared for the characters and wanted to see how their story lines ended.

    Well, before I get off my soapbox, I wanted to say that I love sports and love to watch it on TV (everything from baseball to bowling), but sports on TV shouldn’t be compared with drama/comedy shows…Oh, and although I absolutely love MASH, I don’t like to watch GFA – waaaaay too sad for me! 🙂

    Thanks RJ for keeping this site going – you are the best!

  3. The absolute number of viewers will keep growing because of population growth, but the ratings record of M*A*S*H will stand for all time because it is, by definition, adjusted for population growth. A rating = % of the group being measured. So M*A*S*H’s 60.2 rating means 60.2% of the total U.S. population at the time. That record is untouchable. It is the truest record and as the viewers have more and more choices, it will be harder and harder to ever get close to that record.

  4. After reading that the game was a blow out, I thought maybe it wouldn’t break records. And early numbers suggested it was down from last year. While final Nielsen numbers aren’t out yet, revised early numbers put viewership of the game at 111.5 million viewers, a new record but only just.

    As Dan points out, the rating for the game (46.4) is far below the 60.2 for “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen.” That is a record that probably won’t be broken.

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