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Saints march to highest rated TV show of all time

The New Orleans Saints have another big win to celebrate just one day after claiming the Super Bowl crown: the title of ratings champion.

Last night’s Super Bowl broadcast grabbed a crushing 46.4 rating and 68 share for the Saints 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts. Those numbers are up eight percent over last year’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Arizona Cardinals, which is particularly impressive considering that broadcast set a Super Bowl record with 98.6 million viewers.

Even more impressive: the total of 106.5 million viewers is the largest television audience in American history, just edging out the previous record set by the 1983 finale of ‘M*A*S*H.’

The strong figures represent the highest ratings for a Super Bowl in over 20 years, a sign of just how thoroughly the nation was engrossed in the storylines leading up to this year’s contests. While many casual viewers were entranced by the spectacle of New Orleans struggling to grab their first NFL title in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, hardcore fans were tuning in to see the first match-up of conference number one seeds since 1993. The game also capped off a year in which both the Saints and Colts made a run at undefeated seasons, meaning that many fans and media outlets had been hyping a potential showdown between the teams for months.

Add to that the usual mix of television viewers tuning in for the annual unveiling of the year’s most expensive commercials and you have an event that surpassed even the network’s high expectations: the debut of the new reality series ‘Undercover Boss,’ which followed the Super Bowl, pulled in a 20.6 rating, the highest mark for any post-Super Bowl show since ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ in 2006.

It looks like Mardi Gras is going to start a little early this year for CBS.

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