By Liana B. Baker
(Reuters) - Sunday's close Super Bowl contest between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers failed to beat last year's game in total viewers, CBS Corp said on Monday.
An average of 108.41 million viewers tuned in, compared with 111.3 million a year ago when the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots on NBC. CBS said it was the third-most-watched program in television history, behind last year's Super Bowl and 2011's match-up between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers, which garnered 111 million viewers.
CBS did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether a 35-minute partial electrical blackout in the third quarter of the game affected ratings. Advertisers paid $4 million on average for a 30-second spot during the game.
Late Sunday, CBS said in a statement that "all commercial commitments during the broadcast are being honored."
CBS also said that a record 164.1 million people watched all or part of the telecast for at least six minutes. This measurement is up 3 percent from 159.2 million a year ago.
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters on Monday an investigation was under way to determine the cause of the disruption. He said there was no indication that Beyonce's halftime show had anything to do with the outage.
CBS said earlier on Monday that the telecast earned an average overnight household rating of 48.1 in Nielsen's metered markets, up 1 percent compared with last year's Super Bowl. CBS said the rating excludes the blackout, which occurred just after the start of the second half, between 8:45 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. Nielsen's "metered markets" represent the top 56 U.S. TV markets.
The highest-rated period during Sunday's Super Bowl occurred from 10:30 p.m. to 10:47 p.m., when the game came down to the wire and the Ravens were able to hold off a furious second-half comeback by the 49ers to win 34-31. CBS said that over those 17 minutes, an average of 113.92 million viewers were tuned in.
The Super Bowl, which determines the NFL champion for the 2012 season, is broadcast live in more than 180 countries and in more than 30 different languages. The commercials during the game regularly net a record amount of ad revenue for the network that broadcasts the game in a given year.
Analysts said stand-out commercials included Chrysler's Jeep ad featuring a patriotic salute to U.S. troops and narration by Oprah Winfrey, an Oreo ad asking viewers to vote cookie or creme, and a scantily clad male Calvin Klein model.
Bluefin labs, a firm that tracks social media activity, said viewers produced 30.6 million social media comments, up from 12.5 million last year. The most talked about ad on social media was the Dodge Ram Trucks "Farmer" commercial, followed by Taco Bell's "Viva Young" spot featuring senior citizens behaving badly, Bluefin said.
The Super Bowl also gives the network that airs it an unprecedented promotional platform for its other programming, with the time slot immediately after the game among the most coveted in television. This year CBS chose to showcase its new crime drama "Elementary," a post-modern take on "Sherlock Holmes," in that time slot.
Just under 21 million viewers stuck around after the game to watch "Elementary," making it the lowest-rated post Super Bowl show in 10 years. Part of the blame for the weak rating can be cast on the game's 35-minutes blackout, which pushed "Elementary's" start time to after 11 p.m. on the East Coast.
Last year, NBC's "The Voice" scored 37.6 million viewers in the post-Super Bowl slot. ABC's airing of "Alias" in 2003 garnered only 17.3 million viewers.
"Elementary" averages around 10 million viewers during its normal airings.
(Reporting By Liana B. Baker; Editing by Peter Lauria, Andrew Hay, Dan Grebler and Tim Dobbyn)