The final numbers are in, and Nielsen Media Research estimated that 143.6 million viewers watched part of Super Bowl XXXVIII Sunday evening.
The game became the most-watched Super Bowl ever, surpassing last year’s record of 138.9 million viewers.
Average tune-in throughout the game was almost 89.6 million, the highest average viewership since the 1998 telecast.
Viewership to the game, a nail-biter between the New England Patriots and the Carolina Panthers that was decided in the final seconds, peaked in the last half-hour when 98.5 million fans were watching.
Janet Jackson also got plenty of exposure. Nielsen estimates that 6.6 million kids 2-11 were watching at about the time that CBS’s little halftime fiasco developed when Justin Timberlake ripped off a piece of Jackson’s bodice, exposing her right breast to the nationwide audience. Another 7.3 million teens 12-17 were tuned in at that time as well.