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:
|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.