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Alan Alda tips hat - albeit reluctantly - to Saints for breaking `MASH' ratings record


Alan Alda isn't too angry about the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl victory over the Indianapolis Colts getting a bigger audience than the series finale of his hit CBS sitcom "MASH," but his statement about it doesn't seem like he's jumping for joy either.

"If they broke our record, I'm happy for New Orleans and I hope it gives even more to cheer about to a city I love," Alda said. CBS's coverage of the Super Bowl averaged 106.5 million viewers, just beating the 106 million that the 1983 series finale to "MASH" averaged. In those days, there were only three networks and 83.3 million homes. Now there are hundreds of channels, the Internet and 115 million television homes.

Alda, who played Hawkeye Pierce during the show's 11-year run, wonders how accurate the numbers really are. "I know it sounds evil to mention, but how does Nielsen know how many actual people were watching either broadcast?" he asked. We often wonder the same thing.

Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John for three seasons on "MASH," said while the Super Bowl numbers were big, "MASH" is a better financial bet.

"That Super Bowl is never going to earn what "MASH" earned that's for sure, because there's no reruns for that Super Bowl," Rogers told Fox Business Network.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: "MASH." Credit: Fox.

Comments () | Archives (6)

Yeah...well this record needs to be put into perspective...how many TV's were in the world in 1983 verses what's in the world today. How many people had the ability to watch TV in 1983 verse today. By my estimates to make a fair comparison, the total viewers would have to be 2.5 times as great to equal the relative number of viewers in 1983.

the MASH finale was seen by 50.2 million homes and the Super Bowl by 51.7 million.

This whole debate is interesting but one can argue either side on what accomplishment is more impressive. MASH played in a world of three networks, no cable for most part and no Internet. Super Bowl was up against all that.

Joe Flint

In 1983 there were roughly 233 million Americans. Today we have over 300 Million. MASH drew 45% of the population while yesterdays Superbowl was only 34%.

Actually, the math is quite easy:

Super Bowl 44 in 2010:
106.5 million viewers per 115 million homes = 0.93 viewers/home

MASH in 1983:
106 million viewers per 83 million homes = 1.28 viewers/home

which shows that MASH is still number one (i.e., the higher adjusted viewership number)!

It still doesn't help our friend Mr. Manning who got pwned!

Mash is and always will be #1!

@Joe: You gave the home share, so, but as Alda asked...is CBS & Nielsen just making up the numbers about # of people watching...? If so, this whole thing is a hoax.

Btw, the idea that there's more channels and outlets now, doesn't fly with me. There was 98% crap on back then, and there's 98% crap on now. That's a constant. ;)

Also, cable has 99% penetration now, doesn't it? Is set-top box software still too primitive to do a simple query about channel/time/duration and tabulate an anonymous aggregation, instead of the current guesswork by Nielsen (and getting paid for guessing)...?

That's like the digital scanning of music sales turning all the charts upside-down 10-20 yrs ago.


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