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Super Bowl redux: The ratings game
Initial ratings show small drop from 2004 game. No matter: Super Bowl is still the champ.
February 7, 2005: 4:27 PM EST
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - The New England Patriots established themselves as a football dynasty Sunday night. But their 24-21 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles didn't break any ratings records.

Early ratings data from Nielsen Media Research show that the Patriots' third Super Bowl victory -- and the teams' second consecutive win -- drew a solid 43.4 rating overall in the country's biggest markets, down slightly from last year's 44.2 rating.

A rating represents the percent of U.S. households with televisions that were tuned into a given program at any point in time during its broadcast. The initial Nielsen data on the Patriots-Eagles match represents the average rating Sunday night in the country's 56 largest markets, about 70 percent of U.S. households. Collectively these markets comprise the "metered market" number.

"This is right in line" with expectations, said Brad Adgate, the senior vice president of corporate research at Horizon Media, a New York branding firm. "It was a close game and it featured teams from the fourth- and fifth-largest TV markets. It had the ingredients to do a good number."

Boston drew a 53.1 "metered market" rating, compared to a 56 for Philadelphia. Los Angeles, another key market, drew a 37.3, reports Nielsen.

Official numbers from Sunday's game, including total viewers and other more complete data, won't be available until Tuesday.

But while Super Bowl XXXIX appears not to have broken any ratings records, it was basically on par with recent championships. Two years ago, for instance, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-Oakland Raiders match-up scored a 43.4 "metered market" rating, according to Nielsen.

Thirty-three of the last 34 Super Bowls have achieved household ratings above 40, according to Horizon Media data and Sunday's preliminary numbers. The 38-16 victory by the San Francisco 49ers over the Miami Dolphins in 1985 pulled a 48 rating.

Regular primetime programs, however, have not reached such levels since the final episode of "Seinfeld" in 1998. Before that, 40-plus primetime ratings were common for the three largest broadcast networks.

So the Super Bowl continues to be a solid bet as broadcast networks struggle to hold onto viewers. It also explains why, with a price tag as high as $2.4 million per 30-second spot, the Super Bowl is the most expensive commercial real estate on the airwaves.  Top of page

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