MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Sunday night network schedules used to be defined by movies of the week and miniseries, often to maximum audience effect. Now it's sitcoms, dramas, reality TV and action from the gridiron that make up the grid.Last night's ratings point to why the networks made the switch: ABC won the night with three hours of reality TV and one repeat drama over a first-run Hallmark Hall of Fame movie on CBS and part one of a highly-hyped miniseries on NBC. Unlike most Sundays, it wasn't "Desperate Housewives" and its sibling series, "Brothers and Sisters" that won it for ABC, but a two-hour version of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," which built a 4.0/10 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic. ABC won the opening and closing hours as well, with "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.6/7) and a "Desperate Housewives" rerun (2.5/6) averaging a 3.3/8. (All based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings with final live- plus same-day data released Tuesday.) CBS was in second place with a 2.3/6, as the Hallmark movie "Loving Leah" was liked by only a 2.2/5, 21% behind "Front of the Class," the most recent Hallmark movie. It was also 15% below the original episode average for the usual timeslot occupants, dramas "Cold Case" and "The Unit." Missing the NFL
"Cold Case" did run last night but an hour earlier, delivering a 2.6/6, up from the 2.4/7 for CBS's "60 Minutes," which missed the promotional platform of the NFL, as it missed a quarter of its normal audience. Fox and NBC, too, missed the NFL, as Fox usually used an NFL overrun of the late game to feed male viewers into its guy-friendly animated sitcoms. And NBC's Sunday night game typically scored the top spot during the fall, but instead, miniseries "The Last Templar" delivered a tepid 2.3/6. Combined with the 1.9/5 for "Dateline," NBC finished fourth with a 2.1/5. Fox was just ahead with a low 2.2/5, as cornerstone comedies "The Family Guy" (3.1/7) and the 8:30 p.m. "The Simpsons" (2.5/6) were off recent averages. And even though the 8 p.m. "Simpsons" and "American Dad" were originals, they performed like repeats with each reaching a 2.7/7. Of course, some of this probably had to do with the 1.1/3 from the show that kicked off the night instead of an NFL overrun or post-game show "The O.T.," "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?"
Monday: Part two of the fictional "The Last Templar," which NBC describes as "an epic action-adventure tale about the greatest mystery of modern time." The same could almost be said about the real life Manhattan Project and its protagonist, Robert Oppenheimer, who is profiled on PBS's "American Experience."
Tuesday: Inauguration coverage of the American president made many miss "American Idol." Fans can catch up at 8 p.m. on Fox.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Fox finishing first with "House" and "24," as CBS runs reruns of its hit sitcoms. ~ ~ ~
NOTE: All ratings based on adults 18-49. A share is a percentage of adults 18-49 who have their TV sets on at a given time. A rating is a percentage of all adults 18-49, whether or not their sets are turned on. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. adults 18-49 population with TVs. Ratings quoted in this column are based on live-plus-same-day unless otherwise noted. (Many ad deals have been negotiated on the basis of commercial-minute, live-plus-three-days viewing.)
John Rash is senior VP-director of media analysis for Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis. For more, see rashreport.com.