- The Washington Times - Monday, February 8, 2010

The gridiron victory of an underdog made broadcast history Sunday night.

According to preliminary Nielsen ratings, 106.5 million people watched the New Orleans Saints win Super Bowl XLIV, besting the Indianapolis Colts and yielding the largest audience in TV history for a single broadcast.

It was also the most-watched Super Bowl of all time.

“The Super Bowl remains the premier television event of the year, and is one of the few programs in an era of fragmented TV viewership that can still attract a huge national audience,” said Dave Thomas, Nielsen president.

The event was human interest story as well as major sports moment, he said.

“This year’s Super Bowl had a compelling narrative, with the underdog New Orleans Saints coming from behind against powerhouse Indianapolis Colts. There was tremendous interest in both the game and the advertisements leading up to last night; the excitement of the game itself translated into record ratings,” Mr. Thomas added.

Sunday’s broadcast just squeaked by the long-standing broadcast record holder — the finale of “MASH” on CBS, which drew 106 million viewers in 1983. Last year’s Super Bowl between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals on NBC attracted 98.7 million viewers.

And the much-ballyhooed commercials on Sunday night? There was disagreement among pollsters over which of the pricey, often quirky spots won America’s favor.

USA Today’s Ad Meter claimed that octogenarian Betty White’s pitch for Snickers trumped the competition, which included Doritos, Bud Light, Budweiser and Coca Cola in the Top 5 favorites. The poll measured responses from 250 volunteers during the game.

The Doritos “Underdog” commercial, in fact, won $600,000 for a pair of young filmmakers who created the spot for $200 and entered it in a competition sponsored by the manufacturer. Their prize money hinged on public popularity.

HCD Research’s “Media Curves” tally — which took instant online polls gauging the “emotion, memorability and involvement” of the commercials among several thousand viewers — found that Budweiser’s “Bull advertainment” was in first place, followed by Ms. White’s commercials.

Denny’s, Doritos, FLO TV and Etrade also won viewer’s hearts in the survey.

Google Inc., was ranked the best commercial by the Kellogg School Super Bowl Advertising Review, judged primarily by graduate students in business school.

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