Last week, the NFC title game between the Vikings and the Saints generated the highest number of viewers for any conference championship since 1982, with an audience of 57.9 million.
And a league source recently told us that the NFL anticipates that all-time audience record will be “shattered” by Super Bowl XLIV.
Last year, Super Bowl XLIII generated for NBC an all-time record audience of 98.7 million viewers. This year, the average audience is expected to extend into nine figures, for the first time ever.
That said, the ratings record generated by the final episode of M*A*S*H in 1982 remains safe, given the extensive fracturing of the American audience by the multitude of cable channels and proliferation of the Internet. But as raw eyeballs go, Super Bowl XLIV is expected to capture with ease the all-time record for simultaneous viewership of one event, without a single large-market team.