NEW YORK — The Super Bowl is a TV hit, year after year, no matter how close the game is.
Sunday night’s lopsided game was no different, watched by 137.65 million viewers, the second-most in history for the NFL’s championship game.
ABC’s telecast of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 48-21 victory over the Oakland Raiders registered a national rating of 40.7 — 1 percent higher than last year and the best since 2000.
That means an average of 40.7 percent of the country’s TV homes were watching the game at any given moment.
The viewership estimate, counting people who watched at least six minutes, puts Sunday’s game second only to the 1996 Super Bowl between the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers, which was seen by 138.5 million on NBC.
Last year’s game was watched by 131.7 million on Fox.
The Super Bowl is often the most-watched TV program each year, and nine of the 15 highest-rated shows in history are NFL championship games.
“For a very high percentage of the Super Bowl audience, this is the only football game they watch all year. The average football rating is 12 or 14, and here we are talking about a 40 rating,” said Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports and now a consultant.
In 2002, the New England Patriots’ 20-17 upset of the St. Louis Rams on a final-play field goal had a 40.4 national rating on Fox. That tied 2001 for the fourth-lowest rating for a Super Bowl since 1972.
Sunday’s game ranks 27th of the 32 Super Bowls since then. Cable and the Internet have lowered broadcast ratings in general. Because more people own TVs, lower ratings can still translate to higher viewership.
The 2000 rating was 43.2 for ABC’s telecast of St. Louis’ 23-16 victory over Tennessee.
Advertisers paid ABC an average of just over $2 million per 30-second commercial to reach viewers Sunday.
Oakland’s mini-rally probably helped bring eyeballs back to the game. The rating rose a bit from 9:30-10 p.m., and hit its peak for the final 18 minutes, from 10-10:18 p.m., with 42.4 percent of the country tuning in.
The record rating for a Super Bowl is the 49.1 that CBS got for San Francisco’s 26-21 victory over Cincinnati in 1982.