NEW YORK – An estimated 90.7 million people watched the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks Sunday, the largest Super Bowl audience since 1996 when the Steelers last played in the title game.
That was 5 percent more than the 86.1 million people who watched the New England Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles last year, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen Media Research.
When the Dallas Cowboys beat the Steelers in 1996, there were 94.1 million people watching.
The Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10, but the game wasn't really decided until the final five minutes or so, which helped keep the audience glued to the set, said Larry Hyams, ABC research executive.
"The Super Bowl obviously is a national event and people are going to tune in regardless of whether the teams have national appeal," Hyams said. "It's up to the game to hold the audience."
An episode of "Grey's Anatomy" that aired directly after the game on ABC was seen by 38.1 million people, the biggest audience for a post-Super Bowl show in five years, Nielsen said.