NEW YORK — With a partial power outage, an overly excited quarterback and a game that suddenly turned from snoozer to sizzler, CBS had its hands full at the Super Bowl. The game fell short of setting a viewership record, but it stands as the third most-watched program in U.S. television history.
The Nielsen Co. said an estimated 108.4 million people watched the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers. The most-watched events in U.S. TV history were last year's game, seen by 111.3 million, and the 2010 game, with 111 million viewers.
CBS had hoped to make it the fourth year in a row that football's ultimate game broke the record for most-watched event in American television history. But pro football ratings in general have been down slightly this year.
When the Ravens' Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown and gave his team a 28-6 lead, CBS' dream of a ratings record surely became even more distant. And then half the lights went out. CBS' ratings immediately dipped by two full ratings points in the overnight measurement of big cities.
When the lights returned, so did the 49ers. They quickly jumped back in the game and CBS' audience, no doubt fueled by social media chatter, came back, too. CBS was blessed with the dream of every network that telecasts the Super Bowl: a game that isn't decided until the final play.
CBS had a moment of dead air when the field darkened, since power was lost in the control booth where Jim Nantz and Phil Simms worked. After a commercial break, sideline anchor Steve Tasker appeared to say there had been a power outage. CBS then filled time with its football pregame team, showing highlights and speculating on how the delay would affect the teams.