Page last updated at 10:47 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Super Bowl XLIV breaks ratings record

Porter scores the winning touchdown
The Saints won with a surprise 31-17 win over The Colts

The New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts has become the most-watched programme in US TV history, early figures show.

A record 106.5 million people, watched the game last weekend, according to Nielsen media.

The figure tops the 1983 finale of medical drama M*A*S*H which drew 105.97 million viewers.

The previous Super Bowl record was last year's game between Pittsburgh and Arizona, watched by 98.7 million.

There had been much interest in the game between The Colts - considered the favourites after winning the title just three years ago - and The Saints who were appearing in their first NFL title game.

The Saints' resurgence had been seen as a mirror of the ongoing recovery of New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the underdogs' story propelled viewership.

Margin of error

The early viewing figures also drew some congratulations from Alan Alda, the star of M*A*S*H.

"If the *M*A*S*H audience was eclipsed, it was probably due in large part to the fact that the whole country is rooting for New Orleans to triumph in every way possible," he said.

"I am, too, and I couldn't be happier for them. I love that city."

However, it may be hard to tell which programme was really watched by more people because of the margin for error in such numbers.

Nielsen's estimate on Monday was preliminary, and could change with a more thorough look at more figures due on Tuesday.

Sunday's Super Bowl was viewed by more than double the 48 million Americans who watched President Barack Obama's State of the Union address in January.

An average 26.8 million people have tuned in to the latest series of American Idol, which is currently the most-watched series on US television.

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