Saints' Drew Brees & Colts' Peyton Manning

*We have to admit that this year’s Super Bowl was good. Real good in fact. The lead changed enough times during the game to more than keep folks interested.

Seems it was even better than we thought. The game was watched by more than 106 million people, surpassing the 1983 finale of “M*A*S*H” to become the most-watched program in television history.

Yep, that’s right. Monday, the Nielsen Co. estimated that 106.5 million people watched the New Orleans Saints upset the Indianapolis Colts 31-17. That edges out the old record set by the “M*A*S*H” finale, which had 105.97 million viewers in an era when there were fewer television sets.

The game also wiped out the previous record viewership for a Super Bowl – last year’s game between Arizona and Pittsburgh in which 98.7 million people watched.

Meanwhile, a lot of folks are wondering why this year’s game brought in the record setting viewership … particularly in an era of media fragmentation, when video games, cable TV, the Web and DVR technology have all siphoned viewers from the major networks and made event TV a rarity.

Form then answer, The Wall Street Journal asked David Bushman, curator at the Paley Center for Media. Here’s what he came up with:

The Weather: “A lot of people were snowed in,” Bushman said, referring to a storm that blanketed parts of the East Coast.

The Rise of Sports as Entertainment: “Peyton Manning is one of the most exposed or overexposed football players in the country,” starring in numerous TV commercials, said Bushman, referring to the Colts QB. And the Saints’ Reggie Bush dates reality star Kim Kardashian, making him familiar to viewers and gossip sites/magazines.

The Katrina Factor: Even casual viewers were aware of the Saints’ heartwarming story as the team from the city that suffered the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.

For more reasons, er, guesses why the Super Bowl scored massive ratings, go HERE.