It turns out that Super Bowl XLIII was the highest-rated title game ever.
Early reports had placed the ratings for match up between the Arizona Cardinals and the Pittsburgh Steelers at 97 million viewers, just behind the 97.45 million viewers who watched the 2008 edition, when New York beat New England. But new data from Nielsen Media Research, released Tuesday, tells a different story.
The final estimate of 98.73 million in-home viewers actually makes the 2009 Super Bowl the second most watched television event in history. The audience was even better for the game's exciting fourth quarter: 106 million people watched what is arguably the most exciting quarter in Super Bowl history.
Only the final episode of "M.A.S.H.", with its 106 million viewers drew a larger audience than Super Bowl XLIII.
It's unclear why there was such a discrepancy between early estimates and final tallies. The 3 percent change is unusual because estimated viewership is often accurate to within 1 percent.
"As is standard procedure, [Monday's] early 'fast national number' was based on anticipated station coverage," Nielsen said in a statement Tuesday. "The national overnight data released this [Tuesday] was generated after we verified the stations carrying the game and are a more accurate reflection of the viewers.
"We are looking to see if there are any additional factors that had an impact on the difference between the early fast national ratings and national production ratings."
NBC executives did not argue over the final numbers.