Super Bowl, Madonna set new TV audience records

Mon Feb 6, 2012 9:00pm EST
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(Reuters) - Quarterback Eli Manning and his New York Giants may have beaten superstar Tom Brady and the New England Patriots at Sunday's Super Bowl, but none them could outmuscle Madonna -- at least, where TV audiences were concerned.

A record 111.3 million U.S. viewers watched the Giants defeat the Patriots in the professional football championship, but 114 million watched the halftime performance by Madonna that drew mostly mixed reviews and a firestorm of controversy over a rude gesture by rapper M.I.A.

Ratings tracker Nielsen on Monday said the Super Bowl on the NBC network was the most-watched TV program in U.S. history, eclipsing the 111.0 million who watched 2011's game. An extra three million tuned in for Madonna's glitzy, Cleopatra-themed performance, giving the Material Girl the distinction of having the most-watched Super Bowl halftime show ever.

But her honor may always have the description "dubious" attached to it after NBC and the NFL were forced to publicly apologize for a finger gesture flipped at the audience by British rapper M.I.A, who joined Madonna in the performance that viewers seemed to love and hate in equal measure.

Singer Sean "P.Diddy" Combs tweeted that Madonna "had the best Half-time performance of all time !!" Allison Stewart, pop music blogger with the Washington Post, said Madonna "delivered the most excellent and unexpectedly subversive Super Bowl halftime show in years."

But the Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik called it a "joke of a halftime show featuring an embalmed version of Madonna snatched off the undertaker's table."

Other critics took her to task for blatantly promoting her new album, due out in March, and upcoming tour. The Chicago Tribune's Greg Kot commented that the Super Bowl "has become the biggest stage for shills of all kinds, pop stars included, and halftime has turned into a 12-minute branding opportunity in recent years for artists brandishing new albums."


Much of the day-after reckoning focused on rapper M.I.A.'s offensive finger, which drew comparisons to Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" in 2004.   Continued...

<p>Madonna performs during the halftime show with Nicki Minaj (L) and M.I.A. in the NFL Super Bowl XLVI football game in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 5, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>