Super Bowl passes 'M*A*S*H' to become most-watched program ever

drew-brees-2-super-bowl-320.jpgSuper Bowl XLIV is, at least as things stand right now, the new most-watched program in television history.

An average of 106.5 million people tuned into Sunday's (Feb. 7) broadcast on CBS, breaking the previous mark held by the 1983 series finale of "M*A*S*H," which had just under 106 million people tune in. The Nielsen Company also notes that the Super Bowl (51.7 million homes) also beat the "M*A*S*H" finale (50.2 million) in households.

The 106.5 million-viewer figure is based on time zone-adjusted ratings from Nielsen; final same-day numbers will be out Tuesday.

"M*A*S*H" did, however, command a bigger share of the audience than Sunday's Super Bowl. When its finale aired, about 83 million homes had television sets; the number is about 115 million today. And given the fracturing of the audience in the time since then, it's unlikely any other regular TV series will reach that mark.

This year's game also smashes the previous record for Super Bowl telecasts, set last year when 98.7 million people watched the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals. CBS also says that 153.4 million people -- nearly half the population of the United States -- tuned in for at least six minutes of the game.

The New Orleans Saints beat the Indianapolis Colts, 31-17, to win the first Super Bowl in the team's 43-year existence.

Following the game, the debut of "Undercover Boss" scored an impressive 38.6 million viewers, making it the biggest post-Super Bowl show since "Survivor: The Australian Outback" premiered to 45 million-plus people in 2001. It scored a 16.2 rating among adults 18-49; both that and the total viewer numbers are bests for a new series this season.

CBS also notes that "Undercover Boss" posted biggest number ever for a series premiere following the Super Bowl and the biggest audience for any series premiere since "The Dolly Show" in 1987. (That only lasted one season, though.)

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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