A giant victory wasn't limited to the on-field play at Super Bowl XLII on Sunday.

The New York Giants' thrilling 17-14 win over the New England Patriots in Arizona was the most-watched Super Bowl ever in the United States, with 97.5 million viewers, Nielsen Media Research said Monday.

The game eclipsed the previous record of 94.08 million, set when Dallas faced Pittsburgh in 1996. Last year's game between Indianapolis and Chicago was seen by 93.2 million people, Nielsen said.

More people watched Sunday's game than all but one American television broadcast ever, the M*A*S*H finale in 1983, which was seen by 106 million viewers.

Broadcast on Fox, the Giants-Patriots game's actual rating (43.3 rating, 65 share) was the highest for any Super Bowl since 1997. That means 43 per cent of the nation's TV sets were tuned in to the game, and 65 per cent of the TV sets that were turned on were watching football.

A combined audience of 5.07 million Canadian viewers watched the
game on CTV and RDS, surpassing the previous record of 4.98 million
set in 2006.

The metred market average this year was also missing Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Dallas due to Nielsen delays.

An eye-popping 81 per cent of all TV sets on in the Boston area Sunday were tuned in to the game. In New York, the audience share was 67 per cent.

The audience peaked between 9:30 and 10 p.m. ET — the fourth quarter — with 105.7 million people watching, Nielsen said.

There were signs even before gametime that Fox could be headed for a record. The opportunity for a team to make history with football's first 19-0 record was a powerful draw. The Giants and Patriots also had a tight contest in late December that drew strong ratings.

The Giants' underdog run had also captivated the largest media market in the U.S., making up for the only potential weakness in the event as a drawing card: the lack of geographical diversity in the competing teams.

Fox is owned by News Corp. The average price of an ad was $2.7 million for 30 seconds.

Meanwhile, a separate survey from TiVo Inc., maker of digital video recorders, found the E-Trade ad showing a baby talking about stock deals — and spitting up at the end — was the most-watched commercial during the game.

Counting in people who played back material on their DVRs, the commercials were watched by more people than the game, TiVo said.

With files from the Associated Press