CBS made television history Sunday night when it aired not only the third-most-watched broadcast of all time, but also the fourth.
The No. 3 show was Super Bowl XLVII, which averaged nearly 109 million viewers — a crowd size surpassed only by last year’s Super Bowl XLVI (111.4 million viewers) and 2011’s Super Bowl XLV (111 million).
The fourth-most-watched broadcast in TV history?
Sunday’s Super Bowl blackout.
Number-crunching Nielsen Media has broken out Sunday’s 34-minute game shutdown in New Orleans as a separate show and given it the name “Super Bowl XLVII Delay.”
“Delay” averaged 107 million viewers.
“Delay” has been trimmed to 30 minutes in Nielsen’s records: 8:41-9:11 p.m., a.k.a. not long after the end of Beyonce’s halftime show — and lasting twice as long as her performance, BTW.
The 107 million people who sat through a whole lot of nothing and ad breaks is a bigger crowd than watched the Super Bowl in 2009 and all Super Bowls before that.
It’s also a slightly bigger crowd than watched the historic “M*A*S*H” finale in 1983, and it’s nearly 70 million more people than watched last year’s Grammy Awards ceremony — in which music royalty turned out to lay its heart at the feet of fallen heroine Whitney Houston (who died the previous night in her bathtub).
Thanks to “Delay,” CBS logged the most-watched night in TV history: 109 million viewers.
That’s because the unexpected premiere of the new CBS program “Delay” pushed the network’s previously planned post-Super Bowl Very Special Episode of “Elementary” out of prime time entirely.
Turns out, broadcast-network execs for years have wrongheadedly been following their Super Bowl broadcasts with very special episodes of some prime-time show they want viewers to sample.
Last year, it was NBC’s “The Voice,” which logged 37.6 million viewers.
Ha! It’s no “Delay”!
The year before that, it was Fox’s “Glee,” which averaged a measly 27 million viewers.
And that was only because that episode of “Glee” started so late that Sunday night — only 21 minutes of the high-school musical fit into prime time; Fox’s Super Bowl Sunday was the previous record-holder for the most-watched night of prime time in TV history.
That night on Fox had also marked the first time a network cracked 100 million viewers for a prime-time night. Fox averaged 101 million viewers from 7 to 11 that night.
Meanwhile, the Very Special Episode of “Elementary” — the procedural crime dramatization of the Sherlock Holmes story that got thrown under the bus so CBS could instead air “Delay” in prime time? It had to settle for 20.8 million viewers.
And while we’re feeling sorry for “Elementary” — how about Toyota?
Toyota decided to sign up to be proud sponsor of CBS’s Super Bowl postgame — blah, blah, blah — and snagged an average of 63 million viewers Sunday for its trouble. Had it sponsored “Delay,” it would have averaged an additional 44 million.
In case you missed “Delay,” which, sadly, will not be available on Hulu or CBS.com, the network initially lost audio and trained a camera up at the Superdome ceiling to show viewers that half the overhead lights had gone out.
After a spell, CBS Super Bowl commentators James Brown, Dan Marino, Bill Cowher and Shannon Sharpe began to ruminate as to whether the electrical outage would stop the momentum of the Baltimore Ravens — which at that point had 28 points to the 49ers’ 6 — or jump-start the 49ers.
Meanwhile, up in the NFL control room at the Superdome, CBS News was all over this breaking-news story.
Armen Keteyian of “60 Minutes Sports” was standing next to Frank Supovitz, the guy in charge of NFL game-day operations, when the league’s director of strategic security, Jeff Miller, reported they’d lost the A-feed. Supovitz asked him what that meant, and Miller said it meant that they’ve have to do “the bus tie,” and Supovitz asked that that meant. Miller said it meant a 20-minute delay.
And if you’re flush enough to be a subscriber to CBS’s pay-cable network Showtime, you can find out what happened after that — because Keteyian’s reporting will be seen on Wednesday night’s edition of Showtime’s “60 Minutes Sports.”
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/ style.