Sunday's Super Bowl matchup between the New York Giants and the New England Patriots may have involved two of the NFL's biggest media markets and may have been the most viewed television program in history, but it was not the highest rated Super Bowl.
John Kiesewetter of Cincinnati.com writes that according to Nielson Company data released by NBC, an average of 111.3 million viewers tuned in last Sunday, a 47.0 rating and a 71 percent audience share, compared to an estimated 85.2 million viewers of Super Bowl XVI, which in the less televised 1982 amounted to a 49.1 rating and a 73 percent audience share.
Super Bowl XVI was the first Super Bowl appearance for Joe Montana. The 49ers reached the Super Bowl after defeating the Dallas Cowboys in the final minute of the NFC Championship game on Montana's touchdown pass to Dwight Clark--aka "The Catch." Super Bowl XVI also marks the first appearance in the championship game for the Cincinnati Bengals franchise. The Ken Anderson led Bengals were an AFC best 12-4 and only slight underdogs entering the game, but ultimately fell to the 49ers by a final score of 26-21.
The record for most most viewers of a television program has been consecutively broken by the past three Super Bowls, each with over 100 million viewers. However, Super Bowl XVI still remains atop the list of highest rated Super Bowls in history.