For a while, millions of eyes were on N.J.

Fans ride the Super Bowl Toboggan Run in New York City two days before Super Bowl XLVIII. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the game "a tremendous success."
Fans ride the Super Bowl Toboggan Run in New York City two days before Super Bowl XLVIII. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the game "a tremendous success." (MATT YORK / Associated Press)
Posted: February 07, 2014

More eyes were focused on New Jersey on Sunday than on New Orleans a year ago.

What they saw was far from the close football contest most had anticipated, but 112.2 million American TV viewers kept watching anyway.

That's how many viewers, on average, were tuned in to Super Bowl XLVIII at any given moment, according to Nielsen ratings released Tuesday. That topped last year's average of 111.3 million for the game in New Orleans and made the rout in East Rutherford, N.J., the most watched event in TV history.

More people - 115.3 million - watched Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' halftime show than saw any previous Super Bowl entertainment. Mars' halftime audience beat the record set by Madonna two years ago at 114 million.

(Total viewership for the Seattle Seahawks-Denver Broncos contest on Fox has yet to be released. More than 164 million viewers in total watched last year's matchup, between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens.)

And while not everything went right Sunday - for losing Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, and for thousands of spectators who overwhelmed trains as they left the stadium - NFL officials had nothing but praise for the hosts.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called the first Super Bowl game played in an open-air stadium in the Northeast, and the first hosted by two states - New Jersey and New York - "a tremendous success."

"Let me thank the people of this region, New York and New Jersey, that worked so hard to pull off a terrific Super Bowl," he said at a news conference at the Sheraton Times Square in New York City on Monday. "Everyone seemed to have a terrific time. We had a couple of things that, obviously, we will review and try to improve on, but overall, I think the event was tremendously successful."

One of those things was an overwhelmed NJ Transit system that buckled with so many Super Bowl-goers trying to get home Sunday night by bus and train at the same time. Because of security measures added after 9/11, parking was restricted at MetLife Stadium, and for the first time at a Super Bowl, a vast number of people had to get to the game by mass transit.

Still, Goodell said, "overall, we think it was terrific."

"There were a record number of media here in New York over the last week, which is, I think, just another indication of the tremendous interest, not only in this game, but also in the New York-New Jersey region and the stage that we were on over the last week," he said.

Social media measures also trended positive: The number of tweets during the game was 24.9 million, up from last year's 24.1 million. On Facebook, 185 million posts, comments, and likes were related to the Super Bowl.

The monster ratings all but guarantee that the network broadcasting next year's Super Bowl - NBC - will be able to charge more for commercials. Rates are based on the total audience for the previous year's game.

This year's Super Bowl ads - including one featuring Tim Tebow on what his life has been like without a contract (on behalf of T-Mobile), another with Bob Dylan (for Chrysler), and the Budweiser Clydesdale horses and a puppy as "Best Buds" - were the most expensive ever, $4 million for 30 seconds.

Those in the hospitality and tourism industry in North Jersey said the event went smoothly despite the transportation problems.

Goodell noted 52 community projects across the region - including one in Belmar, N.J., where NFL volunteers helped rebuild playgrounds damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The worst weather fears for Sunday's game never materialized. It was close to 50 degrees at kickoff, and 43 degrees for the entire second half, with only light rain.

"The event was flawless, except for the numbers of people that decided to take the train as opposed to the bus to get to the game," said Jim Kirkos, head of the Meadowlands Regional Chamber. "God was good to us with the weather. He made New Jersey shine."

Kirkos said his staff would begin polling the hospitality and retail industries this week and expected to have hotel occupancy and rate data in a few weeks.

The Meadowlands Tailgate event in East Rutherford on Sunday attracted between 6,000 and 7,000 people, far exceeding expectations, East Rutherford Mayor James Cassella said Wednesday. The event was intended to compete with the pricier "Super Bowl Boulevard" on New York's Broadway.

"Overtime costs were kept at a minimum because of the police officers' willingness to rearrange their schedules for both the game and our tailgate party, which was a huge success," he said. "We took in more than enough to offset our expenses.

"I am not sure how we did with our hotel tax," he said, "but even though they weren't sold out, I think we did well enough to offset our costs."


A SUPER SHOWING

For Super Bowl XLVIII

112.2 million viewers watched the game at any given moment (up from 111.3 million last year).

115.3 million

Total audience for halftime show featuring Bruno Mars (up from last year's audience of 110.8 million who watched Beyonce).

24.9 million number of Tweets during the Super Bowl (up from last year's 24.1 million).

185 million Number of Facebook interactions during the game (comments and likes related to the Super Bowl).

Source: Nielsen, NFL


sparmley@phillynews.com

856-779-3928 @SuzParmley

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