And all those viewers yield the world's greatest commercial opportunity, year after year. No wonder, then, that America's finest ad agencies team up with its finest marketing departments to produce the most memorable ads they possibly can, specifically tailored for the Superbowl.
So much so, there's almost as much hype around the ads as there is the sporting activity that interrupts them. Remember Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" spoof ad for Budweiser. This year, Doritos was one advertiser that took advantage of the hype around home-made content and aired an ad made by "a member of the public" (World 2, page 17).
Although the quality of the ads is variable, the attention given to the spots, by their makers and their viewers, is not. Doritos' spot may have cost only $48 to make, but the airtime was a more considerable $2.6 million. The most immediate measure of their efficacy is the surge in online visits to advertisers' sites. As the ad plays out, Americans log on and investigate the products being promoted. Last year, visits to Budweiser's site grew by 500 per cent over the duration of the game, while those to GoDaddy.com rose by 1,000 per cent.
This is event television at its best, and we need more of it. The UK equivalent is the Champions League final, which attracts in the region of 15 million viewers, but there's nothing like the excitement surrounding its advertising.
But there are signs that advertisers are trying to harness the benefits of event TV. Fallon's two-and-a-half-minute "balls" for Sony broke just before the biggest Premiership game of 2005 (Manchester United versus Chelsea), for instance.
The 15 million viewers provided by the Champions League final is one of the best ways for mass-market TV advertisers to kick off their campaigns. Britain's advertisers need more Big Brother finals and more X-Factor finals.
In turn, the advertisers need to invest in the kind of appointment-to-view ads that get consumers excited. The UK advertising market needs its Superbowl equivalent.