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Super Bowl gets super ratings
Late heroics lead to biggest audience ever and best ratings since 1998 for championship game.
February 2, 2004: 3:59 PM EST

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The dramatic finish in Sunday's Super Bowl yielded the biggest audience ever for the game and the best ratings since 1998, according to CBS.

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Steve McKee, president of ad rating agency McKee Wallwork Henderson, talks about which super bowl commercial was voted America's favorite.

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The show was watched in 44.2 percent of U.S. households, and by 63 percent of all homes tuned into television during the game, according to preliminary readings in the nation's 55 largest television markets.

CBS said that 140 million people in the nation watched all or part of the game, which top's 2003's record of 138.9 million. The ratings were based on numbers from Nielsen Media Research, CBS said, but Nielsen won't release its data until later Monday.

Last year's game, a relative blow-out, was watched in average of 43.8 percent of homes and 62 percent of homes watching television at the time.

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This year's ratings were the best since 1998, when the Denver Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers before 44.4 percent of U.S. households and 65 percent of those watching television.

Super Bowls used to get larger ratings in the days before the growth of cable split television viewership which had been dominated by the broadcast networks. But higher population means total viewers can hit records, even with lower ratings.

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This year's game was helped by a close outcome, in which the lead changed three times in the last four minutes of the game. The final half-hour of Sunday's broadcast was watched in 49.6 percent of homes and just more than two-thirds of homes watching television, the network said.

CBS got a record $2.25 million for a 30-second spot on the broadcast, up from the $2.1 million in last year's game.  Top of page

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