MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Last week's bleak economic news included a dreary drumbeat of data, all pointing in the wrong directions: up (unemployment rising to a 26-year high of 8.5%), down (housing prices, plunging 19%) and out (Rick Wagoner, CEO of struggling General Motors). But country music -- for which the best times are often during the worst times for the economy -- came back big Sunday night.
CBS's telecast of the 44th-annual Academy of Country Music Awards had its highest viewership in 11 years and its best ratings in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic since 2005, with a 31% spike to a 3.8/10. Combined with a 1.8/6 for "60 Minutes," CBS finished first with an overall 3.3/9. That was well above Fox (2.4/7) and ABC (1.8/5), whose schedules were replete with repeats, as well as NBC (2.0/5), which ran original episodes but repeated its pattern of declining ratings. The CW (.4/1) finished fifth, with "Jericho" (.3/1) and "Rocky III" (.4/1) barely putting up a fight (all based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings; final live-plus-same-day data will be available tomorrow).
The night wasn't all good for CBS, however, as "60 Minutes" fell 40% from its original-episode season average. Indeed, it really was a slow night for news (despite President Barack Obama's hope for nuclear disarmament contrasting with the fear of North Korean nukes), as NBC's "Dateline" (1.3/4, down 13%) was also beat by a repeat of ABC's "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.1/7).
Fox was lower still in the first hour, running reruns of "American Dad" (1.2/4) and "King of the Hill" (1.4/4). The next half-hour brought Fox's only original episode of the night, "The Simpsons" (3.1/9), which may have been affected by a nearly all-second-showing schedule, as it was down 14%. Two "Family Guy" repeats (2.8/7 and 3.1/8) and a "Simpsons" rerun (2.7/7) followed.
ABC viewers were seeing double too, as reruns of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (2.2/6), "Desperate Housewives" (1.7/4) and "Brothers & Sisters" (1.0/3) followed "Videos."
That should have created an audience opportunity for NBC, which followed "Dateline" with original episodes. But with people poorer and looking to listen to country music to forget -- or reflect upon -- the recession, it may not have been a good night for shows about "Kings" (1.1/3) and the Donald ("Celebrity Apprentice," 2.8/7), as each fell to season lows, tumbling 27% and 15%, respectively.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Fans watching athletic events tonight might be couch potatoes, but their remotes will get a workout, as CBS's NCAA basketball championship game starts during about the third inning of the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros game on ESPN 2, just one of many televised nationally and regionally on this opening day for Major League Baseball.
Tuesday: The Peanuts gang takes the field in "Charlie Brown All Stars!" on ABC, which follows the annual "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: While neither No. 1 seed North Carolina nor No. 2 seed Michigan State is a Cinderella team, it's a storybook matchup for CBS tonight, as both bring basketball heritage -- and fans -- to the championship.
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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.