Super Bowl

Super Bowl TV ratings: Fast facts at a glance

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The Super Bowl is just five days away. That means a lot of people will be in front of their televisions on Sunday—but this year's game has a lot to live up to when you look at past TV ratings numbers.

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When the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos square off at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., it will be the first Super Bowl played outdoors in winter weather. That's expected to help bring in more TV viewers, who will be snuggled warmly on their couches, watching the teams battle each other in the elements.

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While we won't know how big the audience will be until the numbers are crunched, we do have some statistics from previous Super Bowls to compare it to, courtesy of Horizon Media. So while you're figuring out how many yards Peyton Manning will pass for, or how many interceptions the Seahawks' secondary might make, keep the following TV ratings stats handy as you watch the big game:

  • The last four Super Bowls have been the four most watched TV programs in U.S. history in terms of total viewers. The most watched is Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 with 111.3 million viewers. The "M*A*S*H" finale in 1983, long the standard bearer of most-watched programs, now ranks fifth all time, with 106 million viewers.
  • Last year marked the first time since 2005 that the average audience for the Super Bowl did not increase from the year before.
  • The Super Bowl averaged more than 50 million female viewers last year. Women make up about 35 percent of your typical regular season NFL game.
  • The highest-rated Super Bowl was in 1982 (49.1 percent of households) when the San Francisco 49ers behind Joe Montana beat the Cincinnati Bengals. It is the fourth highest-rated TV show ever, and the highest-rated sports show ever.
  • 18 of the 20 highest-ever rated sporting events have been Super Bowls. The lone exceptions were the two women's figure skating events during the 1994 Winter Olympics. That was when Nancy Kerrigan faced off against Tonya Harding.

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  • The score for five of the past six Super Bowls has been decided by a touchdown or less. During the regular season, 44 percent of NFL games were decided by seven points or less, and half of the 10 postseason games this year were decided by a touchdown or less.
  • With an identical record of 15 wins and 3 losses (including the postseason), Seattle and Denver are top seeds in their respective conferences. That's only the 10th time (since 1975) in which the best team from the NFC faces its AFC counterpart—and it is only the second time since 1993. The last time was 2009 (New Orleans vs. Indianapolis).
  • Viewership for the NFL regular season was up 5 percent in 2013 compared with 2012. During the postseason in 2014, the audience was up 10 percent from last year.
  • The two conference championship games in 2014 averaged 53.7 million viewers, 20 percent higher than 2013. That ties the second best ever (with 2012) behind the 1982 championship games.
  • There have been only 10 telecasts to average more than 30 million viewers this broadcast season, all of them NFL games, including nine postseason games and one regular season game on Thanksgiving.
  • The Super Bowl is the highest-rated show across all age groups. Last year, the game averaged a 30.2 percent rating with teens and 21.8 percent with kids 2-11.

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  • Super Bowl viewers tend to be more affluent, live in larger homes and subscribe to a pay premium service. Last year, the household rating of the Super Bowl was 59.7 percent in homes with a household income of $100,000, 55.2 percent in homes with a household size of four members, and 52.6 percent in homes that subscribe to a premium pay cable service. The total U.S. rating was 46.7 percent.
  • The most watched Super Bowl lead-out, or TV programming following the game, was "Friends" in 1996, which averaged 52.9 million viewers. Last year's lead-out was "Elementary" on CBS. Its 20.8 audience was the lowest since 2003. Both shows began after prime time on the East Coast. Last year the start was delayed by a power blackout.

—By CNBC's Mark Koba.