Thrilling Super Bowl scores for ABC

NEW YORK (Variety) – One of the most exciting finishes in Super Bowl history produced some pretty exciting Nielsens for ABC the highest ratings for a Super matchup not featuring the Dallas Cowboys or Green Bay Packers in six tries.

With the game pitting two teams from smaller markets and little NFL tradition, advertisers faced the prospect, if the game were a blowout, of some not-so-super Nielsens for commercials that reportedly cost as much as $3 million for a 30-second spot.

But a down-to-the-wire finish instead produced an impressive 43.2 rating, 62 share in households, up 7% from last year’s Denver-Atlanta 40.2/61, and best for a non-Dallas, non-Green Bay Super Bowl since San Francisco-Cincinnati did a 43.5/62 with another exciting finish back in January 1989.

ABC estimates 130.75 million viewers watched at least some of the game (up 3% over last year) and 88.41 million watched during an average minute (up 6%).

While there was no over-hyped Victoria’s Secret fashion show for Netizens to tune into, ABC’s Enhanced TV offerings and newly launched Oxygen Media were the only dot-coms that coaxed viewers during the broadcast to leave their couches for their computers.

ABC reports a record 650,000 computer users made the move to view segments of the game on ABC’s Enhanced TV format by connecting to various Web sites such as and The average user remained logged on to the enhanced video version of the game for 42 minutes a phenomenal number for ABC to entice advertisers during future online endeavors, considering shoppers at e-tailing giant only stay on the site for an average of eight minutes.

Shortly after kickoff, Enhanced TV was registering a record 1,000 connections per minute. The 650,000 users easily surpassed Enhanced TV’s NFL regular-season average of approximately 75,000 users per game.

Considering the slew of dot-coms that pegged their services to the more male-skewing Super Bowl viewers, the more female-targeted cable and online content broadcaster Oxygen Media may not have found its audience. Oxygen execs declined to disclose hits brought in by its Super Bowl strategy for

With the biggest ratings boost of the year, ABC is expected to move into the primetime season-to-date adults 18-49 lead, at least two-tenths of a rating point ahead of NBC, when Nielsen issues official Jan. 24-30 averages Tuesday.

And if “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” maintains anything near its current ratings levels, ABC could hold the lead in that key demographic to the season’s finish. In households, the Super Bowl will apparently wipe out immediately an 0.4-rating-point deficit and propel ABC into a three-way tie for the season-to-date lead with CBS and NBC, each at an 8.9 rating. ABC hasn’t won a season in either adults 18-49 or homes since the 1994-95 campaign.

As expected, ABC will crush all competition for the week, with what’s expected to be its top averages since it last aired the Super Bowl five years ago. Sunday’s game pitted a team from the country’s 21st-largest market (St. Louis) vs. a franchise based in the No. 30 market (Nashville).

It’s apparently the first time that no top-20 TV market has been represented in a Super Bowl since the inaugural Green Bay-Kansas City matchup in 1967.

As expected, the game got colossal numbers in those home-team markets: a 55.6/78 households average in St. Louis, and a 50.3/67 in Nashville.

Reliable national numbers weren’t available late Monday for ABC’s post-game episode of “The Practice” (which aired about three hours after the game in the West), but in Nielsen’s top “metered” markets, the courtroom drama sustained a 17.1/28 households average. The national figures may come down, but in any case, it’ll be a vast improvement over what Fox did last year with a post-game “Family Guy” (12.6/21). Still, that 17.1 would be the second-lowest homes rating for a post-Super Bowl entertainment show in five years.

Sunday’s football earned TV’s highest Nielsens in the two years since the 1998 Super Bowl, while pre-game and post-game coverage that aired immediately before and after the contest (36.7/59 and 35.8/52 in households, respectively) beat every other primetime telecast of the past year.

ABC’s gains vs. last year’s Fox coverage were skewed slightly away from young adults. Sunday’s Rams-Titans telecast failed to match its 6% total-viewer growth in adults 18-49 (up 4% to a 37.8 rating) and men 18-49 (up 3% to a 44.3).

Based on weekend preliminary results, ABC is expected to finish the Jan. 24-30 week with roughly a 10.7 rating in adults 18-49, almost triple the projected runner-up score of NBC (3.9). Fox (3.7) and CBS (3.3) are expected to follow.

In households, the week’s estimated averages are: ABC, a 15.2 rating; CBS, 7.7; NBC, 7.4; Fox, 5.3.

Each household rating point represents an estimated 994,000 homes, or 1% of the country’s TV households. Each adults 18-49 rating point represents 1.239 million viewers, 1% of the U.S. total. A share is the same sort of percentage, except it’s measured against only the homes or viewers watching TV during the time slot involved.

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