Super Bowl XLVI Is the Most-Watched TV Program of All-Time
Super Bowl XLVI Is the Most-Watched TV Program of All-Time
John Kubicek
John Kubicek
Senior Writer, BuddyTV
For the third year in a row, there's a new most-watched program of all-time. The final numbers for Super Bowl XLVI are in, and the broadcast earned NBC 111.3 million viewers, narrowly beating last year's 111 million.

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The last three Super Bowls are the three most-watched programs ever (the 2010 game got 106.5 million viewers). The record-breaking game pushes the M*A*S*H* series finale down to fourth on the all-time list with 106 million viewers. Before these three modern Super Bowls came along, the M*A*S*H* finale held the title for most-watched program for more than 25 years.

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Super Bowl XLVI (2012): 111.3 million
Super Bowl XLV (2011): 111 million
Super Bowl XLIV (2010): 106.5 million
M*A*S*H* series finale (1983): 106 million
Super Bowl XLIII (2009): 98.7 million
Super Bowl XLII (2008): 97.5 million
Super Bowl XXX (1996): 94.1 million
Super Bowl XLI (2007): 93.2 million
Cheers series finale (1993): 93.1 million viewers
Super Bowl XXVII (1998): 91 million

The huge numbers for the New York Giants victory over the New England Patriots also helped boost NBC's The Voice. The season 2 premiere of the reality competition had 37.6 million viewers, a huge increase over last year's Glee episode, which had just 26.8 million viewers. It's also a big win over the last time NBC had the Super Bowl in 2009 when an episode of The Office had 22.9 million viewers.

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The huge ratings for The Voice highlight a trend of reality shows outperforming scripted TV after the Super Bowl. In the last 12 years, all four of the reality TV post-Super Bowl episodes earned over 33 million viewers and they are among the top five highest-rated shows for that time span.

If the networks are smart, they'll look at this trend and decide to start programming reality competitions after the Super Bowl instead of scripted shows. Next year CBS will broadcast the big game, and it seems like a safe bet that the network will launch a new reality season, most likely Survivor or The Amazing Race. CBS has already used the Super Bowl to launch two seasons of Survivor, both to great success. In the last 20 years CBS has aired the Super Bowl five times, and only once has it used a scripted show (Criminal Minds in 2007).

With three big games in a row, it will be interesting to see if next year's Super Bowl can continue the trend.

(Image courtesy of NBC)