LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Steelers' Super Bowl victory over the Arizona Cardinals drew more than 95 million U.S. television viewers on Sunday, down slightly from 2008's big game but still the second-most watched National Football League championship ever.
Nearly half of all American homes with televisions were tuned into the last half hour of the nail-biting contest, in which the Steelers prevailed over the Cardinals, 27-23, in the final minutes of play, Nielsen Media Research reported on Monday.
The four-hour broadcast, airing on NBC, averaged 95.4 million U.S. viewers, second only to the record 97.5 million -- 2 percent more -- who saw the New York Giants upset the New England Patriots in last year's Super Bowl, according to final Nielsen figures.
As usual, the NFL championship ranks as the most watched single telecast of the year by far, demonstrating why advertisers this year paid up to $3 million for a 30-second commercial spot during the game.
"The Super Bowl, once again, proved its ability to captivate America," Dick Ebersol, chairman of NBC Universal Sports and Olympics, said in a statement.
By comparison, some 37.8 million Americans watched a full day of TV coverage of President Barack Obama's inauguration, carried on numerous networks, on January 20. The 1983 series finale of the sitcom classic "M*A*S*H" holds the record as the most-watched U.S. TV broadcast of all time, with 106 million viewers.
Sunday's Super Bowl broadcast came with a surprising glitch for some viewers in Tucson, Arizona, when a 30-second clip from a porn film interrupted local cable carriage of the final stages of the game.
Cable provider Comcast said the clip -- reportedly showing a woman unzipping a man's pants, followed by a graphic sex act -- temporarily was broadcast to some suburban customers watching the Super Bowl on a low-definition service.
Comcast spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said the company was "mortified" at the interruption, which may have been caused by someone tapping into their transmission.
"Our initial investigation suggests this was an isolated malicious act. We are conducting a thorough investigation to determine who was behind this," Moyer added.
The Arizona Daily Star said its newsroom was inundated with calls from irate viewers.
Despite the global economic downturn and the pressure on advertising budgets, NBC, a unit of General Electric Co, sold out all commercial spots for Sunday's game for a record advertising haul of $206 million.
Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor in Phoenix; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh