No one was waiting with bated breath Tuesday to see if the Sunday's heart-stopper between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers would be the top program of the week (or even the year): It was. There was no doubt that the Super Bowl was the biggest story in water cooler talk and tabloid headlines for at least two days after the final whistle blew, although the fact that the Patriots won somehow got lost in the shuffle. And lost in the brouhaha was how this year's telecast would stack up against the 36 other Super Bowls held since 1967.
Super Bowl XXXVIII scored a 41.4 rating and a 63 share, with 44.9 million households and 79 million people tuning in. The pre-game show drew a 28.8 rating and a 46 share, with 31.2 million households and 79 million people tuning in.
These figures gave this year's Super Bowl better ratings than the past three, although the 2000 Super Bowl beat it with a 43.3 rating and a 63 share. But this year's telecast only ranked 26th out of 37. The gold standard remains 1982's match-up between the San Francisco 49ers and the Cincinnati Bengals, which ranked a 49.1/73 (rating/share).
In a study released Tuesday afternoon, MAGNA Global USA's Steve Sternberg noted that on a share-of-audience basis, the 2004 Super Bowl was on par with the last few games. But, interestingly enough, the average rating for men aged 18-34 was down. This year, it was only a 34.5/79 compared to a 39.6/77 last year and a 41/85 in 1999, when the game was broadcast on Fox.
Because of a thrilling finish to the game, the ratings grew as the fourth quarter progressed, reaching a crescendo of 46.8/67 from 10-10:30 p.m., when the Patriots' punter kicked a field goal to win the game.
"Note that for the first time in years, the halftime show was higher-rated than the half-hour segments of the game that surrounded it," Sternberg said.
And in another measure of the halftime show's impact, TiVo said the last few seconds of the performance between Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake were the most replayed segment ever measured on TiVo--with almost twice as many viewers as any part of the game, according to second-by-second measurement by TiVo. Viewership increased 180 percent as TiVo subscribers played and replayed the moment over and over.