Each year, one lucky TV network gets to pad its stats with the biggest broadcast of the season: The Super Bowl doesn't just determine the best squad of gigantic men who can throw, catch, and kick a football, it also determines which network executives will take the most money baths for the year.
For networks, there are three main components of broadcasting the Super Bowl. First, there are the ratings, which are so big they can vault a network up in the standings based on just three hours' worth of programming. Super Bowls this century have routinely cracked the list of the most-watched broadcasts in history (21 of the 45 most-watched broadcasts have been Super Bowls), and last year's game holds the record for most viewers in U.S. television history. That will likely be bested this year.
Super Bowl commercials are also a big business, and with upwards of 80 spots to sell at a record-setting $4 million dollars (estimated) a pop, they provide a nice payday.
Finally, networks also use the game to boost their other programming. The coveted post-Super Bowl time slot is awarded to one lucky show a year, and often yields the biggest audience the program will ever see.
We've compiled some stats in all three of these categories to show you just how ginormous the Super Bowl is and put them into pretty infographic to make the numbers easier to digest.
The 2012 Super Bowl airs this Sunday on NBC. This year's lead-out is the Season 2 premiere of The Voice.