NEW YORK (AP) - An estimated 108.4 million people watched the Super Bowl, making it fall short of setting the fourth straight viewership record.
The Nielsen Company said Monday that the Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers was the third most-viewed program in television history. Both the 2010 and 2011 games hit the 111 million mark.
Football viewership in general declined this year. But with a thrilling finish, this year's game did become the fourth Super Bowl to record more than 100 million viewers.
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Between a partial power outage, overly excited quarterback and a game that suddenly turned from snoozer to sizzler, CBS had its hands full with the Super Bowl. The audience offered a final reward, though.
The Baltimore Ravens' 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers set a Super Bowl record for highest ratings in the Nielsen Co.'s overnight measurement of large cities. Nielsen planned to estimate the game's viewership later Monday, and CBS hoped to make it the fourth year in a row that football's ultimate game broke the record for most-watched event in American television history.
The game's 48.1 overnight rating and 71 share was 1 percent above the same measurement for the 2012 game, Nielsen said.
Pro football ratings in general declined this season. And when the Ravens' Jacoby Jones returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown and gave his team a 28-6 lead, CBS' dream of a ratings record surely became more distant. And then half the lights went out. CBS' ratings immediately dipped by two full ratings points.
When the lights returned, so did the 49ers. They quickly jumped back in the game and CBS' audience, no doubt fueled by social media chatter, came back, too.
CBS had a moment of dead air when the field darkened, since power was lost in the control booth where Jim Nantz and Phil Simms worked. After a commercial break, sideline anchor Steve Tasker appeared to say there had been a power outage. CBS then filled time with its football pregame team, showing highlights and speculating on how the delay would affect the teams.
At the precise moment the lights went out, CBS' Armen Keteyian was in the NFL's control booth, conducting an interview with Frank Supovitz, senior vice president of the NFL in charge of events.
"In the NFL control room, there was no panic, but there was an undeniable amount of uncertainty about the cause," Keteyian said Monday on "CBS This Morning." Keteyian was filming for a "60 Minutes Sports" report scheduled to be aired on Wednesday.
Despite the presence of Keteyian and Jeff Glor, CBS News did not participate in live coverage of the power outage. The sports personnel were better situated close to the action, said Sonya McNair, CBS News spokeswoman.
"If they needed us we could have been there but there was no need, because it didn't rise to the occasion," she said.
The power outage was an immediate hot topic for quips and questions online. There were an estimated 47.7 million social media posts during the game, according to the company Trendrr TV, which tracks activity on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. That compares with 17 million during last year's game and 3 million in 2010, Trendrr said.
Television ratings grew throughout the evening, reaching 52.9 with a 75 share at the game's end. CBS was blessed with the dream of every network televising a Super Bowl: a game that isn't decided until the final play.
One ratings point represents 1,147,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.7 million TV homes. The share means the percentage of TV sets in use that were tuned to the game.
Baltimore had the highest rating of any individual city, Nielsen said. San Francisco was not among the top 10 cities in ratings.
CBS drew criticism from the Parents Television Council for not editing out a profanity said by Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco shortly after the game. Flacco was caught by microphones describing his team's victory as "f------ awesome."
"No one should be surprised that a jubilant quarterback might use profane language while celebrating a career-defining win, but that is precisely the reason why CBS should have taken some precautions," said Tim Winter, president of the lobbying group, asking for the Federal Communications Commission to rebuke CBS.
The network had no immediate comment Monday on the complaint.
CBS has said that it was airing the pregame, postgame and halftime portions of the show on tape delay to guard against the use of bad language or wardrobe malfunctions. The postgame delay does not begin until the first block of commercials after the game, which hadn't happened before Flacco's expletive.