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It was a heartbreaker for the New England Patriots, but a record-breaker for television.

The Super Bowl thriller on Sunday was the most-watched NFL championship game on U.S. and Canadian television, and also worldwide.

However, CTV fell short of the English-language record of 4.281 million set by Global Television in 2006 (Pittsburgh Steelers-Seattle Seahawks).

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CTV drew an audience of 4.16 million, up 24 per cent from last year (Indianapolis Colts-Chicago Bears).

Réseau des Sport, the French-language sports service, had an audience of 905,000, a Super Bowl record for the network, up 13 per cent from 2007 and 29 per cent from 2006.

Together, the CTV and RDS telecasts produced a Canadian audience of 5.065 million, which is a Super Bowl record, ahead of the 2006 total of 4.983, 4.281 million for Global and 702,000 for RDS.

CTV's audience peaked at 10:02 p.m. (all times EST), in the fourth quarter, at 5.83 million.

These are preliminary numbers and they will change somewhat when the final BBM-Nielsen measurements are released in about a week.

In the United States, Fox Television's telecast of Super Bowl XLII was watched by 97.5 million viewers, bettering the previous mark of 94.08 million, set in 1996 by NBC for the Dallas Cowboys-Steelers game.

TV records were predicted as soon as the game, won 17-14 by the New York Giants in an upset, ended. Interest was stimulated by the Patriots attempting to cap a perfect season with an unprecedented 19-0 record.

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Although the game wasn't well played until the final minutes, it was competitive and also riveting, because so much was on the line.

The Fox audience ranks as the second largest for a show on U.S. television, behind the 1983 finale of M*A*S*H, which had about 106 million.

It was also the most watched Super Bowl worldwide with a total audience of 148.3 million, ahead of the previous high of 144.4 million in 2004 (Patriots-Carolina Panthers).

Fox's rating (percentage of potential viewing households tuned in) was 43.2, the highest since 43.3 for ABC in 2000 (St. Louis Rams-Tennessee Titans).

The highest rating for a Super Bowl was 49.1 for the CBS telecast in 1982 (San Francisco 49ers-Cincinnati Bengals).

Although U.S. audiences are getting larger because of the population increase, it's difficult to earn a rating above 45 because of the fragmentation of viewers in the multichannel marketplace.

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For the pregame show from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., CTV had an audience of 556,000. Fox earned a 10.8 rating (20.1 million viewers), up 6 per cent from last year's 10.2. It was the most watched Super Bowl pregame in the United States since 2002.

Rumblings at The Score

Is the for sale sign back on Score Media?

Rumoured to be on the block for years, recent developments have TV watchers wondering if ownership of the all-sports cable channel is slashing costs in preparation for a sale.

Last week, anchor Greg Sansone, promoted to management before Christmas after several senior producers left the company, called reporters at the Score's Canadian bureaus country from Phoenix, where he was covering the Super Bowl.

The message, which seemed to be urgent, was: Be prepared to lose your jobs. Toronto-based Score is eliminating bureau reporters. In Vancouver, Sara Orlesky is already gone. She joined TSN several weeks ago, and has not been replaced.

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Additional cost-cutting measures have included the replacement of programming with simulcasts of content on the Score's Hardcore channel on Sirius Satellite Radio.

The Score will continue to use video from contracted camera technicians in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal, but there isn't likely to be any reporting.

CanWest Global has a 26.5-per-cent stake in Score Media. Yesterday, the Score began filing sports reports to Global News Ontario, which no longer has a sports department. Rogers Sportsnet had been providing sports content to Global.

Fact to fiction

Despite the Patriots' Super Bowl loss, The Boston Globe's new paperback titled 19-0: The Historic Championship Season of New England's Unbeatable Patriots, remained listed on yesterday.

Another quickie also is out of date - New England Patriots: 2008 Super Bowl Champions, by Sports Publishing. Comments on Amazon about the 19-0 book included: "Greatest choke of all time," "18-1?" and "File this under fiction."

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NBC's second NHL telecast of the season, New York Rangers-Montreal Canadiens, earned a low overnight rating of 0.8. Because the Habs were playing, NBC lost a U.S. home market.

One of Giants quarterback Eli Manning's first stops will be CBS's Late Show with David Letterman tomorrow.

Rating the weekend

Hockey. Avalanche-Red Wings TSN 174,000 Below TSN's NHL average
Soccer. Portsmouth-Chelsea Sportsnet 60,000 Good match-up but weak audience
Skiing. Women's downhill CBC 124,000 Women's numbers are up
Hockey. Islanders-Canadiens CBC 319,000 Afternoon game, but weak
Hockey. Islanders-Canadiens RDS 692,000 Up from season average of 642,000
Golf. FBR Open TSN 73,000 Not great
Skiing. Men's downhill CBC 177,000 Good alpine audience
Hockey. Senators-Leafs CBC 1.139 mil. Down from 1.163 million season average
Basketball. Arizona-UCLA Score 12,000 For hoops junkies only
Hockey. Stars-Flames CBC 489,000 Poor, down from 681,000 season average
Soccer. Fulham-Aston Villa Score 64,000 Little interest in Fulham
Hockey. Rangers-Canadiens CBC 497,000 Up against Super Bowl pregame
Hockey. Rangers-Canadiens RDS 805,000 RDS's second largest of the season
Golf. FBR Open TSN 140,000 Bad v. Super Bowl pregame competition
Football. Giants-Patriots CTV 4.16 million Up 24 per cent from last year
Football. Giants-Patriots RDS 905,000 A Super Bowl record for RDS
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