Super Bowl ratings gain some ground

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Super Bowl XL, in which the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10, produced lower overall ratings than last year but increased viewers in key demographics. Overnight ratings indicate yesterday's game notched a 42.1 rating, slightly down from 2005's matchup between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, which produced a 43.4 overnight rating (one overnight or "preliminary" ratings point equals approximately 761,500 viewers, according to Nielsen Media). In the key 18-49-year-old demographic, the broadcast averaged a 34.6, up 4 percent from 33.2 in 2005.

According to ABC, Super Bowl XL was seen for at least six minutes by 141 million viewers, and total viewers for the entire telecast reached 91 million, which would make it the most-watched television program in 10 years (the previous record holder being Super Bowl XXX between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers on January 28, 1996).

Elsewhere in the Sunday schedule, ABC led in every hour of prime time against an offering of mostly repeats from the other networks.

In the 7 o'clock time slot, Fox trailed in second with a Simpsons repeat, followed by NBC with Dateline, CBS with 60 Minutes, and WB with a repeat of Beauty and the Geek.

At 8 p.m., Fox was still a distant second with repeats of The Simpsons and Family Guy, CBS was third for a repeat of Criminal Minds, NBC was fourth with a Crossing Jordan repeat, and WB was fifth with another repeat of Beauty and the Geek.

In the 9 p.m. slot, Fox was again second with a Family Guy rerun, CBS was third with a cold case of Cold Case, NBC was fourth with a second helping of warmed-over Crossing Jordan, and WB was fifth with its final installment in the trilogy of Beauty and the Geek repeats.

ABC followed the Super Bowl with the hit drama Grey's Anatomy, and the lead-in helped the show to series-best ratings. In the 10 p.m. hour, Anatomy notched 38.1 million total viewers and a 36.0 rating. In the 18-49 demo, the episode was the most watched show since the Friends series finale in 2004. It helped that the competition on NBC was a repeat of Law and Order: Criminal Intent(2.4 rating) and on CBS, a repeat of CSI: Miami(2.2 rating).

Overall, ABC won the night with a 34.6 rating, followed by CBS with 4.1, NBC with 3.5, Fox with 2.7, and WB with 0.9.

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