ESPN's 'Monday Night Football' Outdraws Baseball

Rash Report: Despite Rainout, World Series Still Delivers for Fox

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Had it rained in Nashville, they still would have played the "Monday Night Football" game on ESPN between the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts. And in the unlikely event it would have rained on the set of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," the contestants could channel Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) in "Singing in the Rain." But as tough as Major League Baseball players get during a grueling 162-game season, sometimes it's just too wet to finish a ballgame, which is what happened in Philadelphia last night when play was suspended in the bottom of the sixth in a tense Game 5 of the World Series.
ESPN was the highest-rated network in the ad-centric adults 18-49 demo last night as the Tennessee Titans scored a 31-21 victory and a 4.6/12 rating and share.
ESPN was the highest-rated network in the ad-centric adults 18-49 demo last night as the Tennessee Titans scored a 31-21 victory and a 4.6/12 rating and share. Credit: AP

It's been that kind of snake-bitten Series for Fox. The storyline is compelling, as baseball spikes could be replaced by Cinderella slippers for the worst-to-first Tampa Bay Rays. But it would have been better if the Rays brought some sunshine north to rainy Philly, which already saw one game end Sunday morning after NBC's "Saturday Night Live" due to poor playing conditions.

The night, however, wasn't a complete washout for Fox, as it still delivered a 3.7/9 rating and share in the ad-centric adults 18-49 demographic to be the highest-rated broadcast network. Game 5 averaged a 4.0/10 and the World Series pre-game show notched a 2.0/6. And if the Rays can come back and win the 2-2 game to extend and eventually tie the series, Fox could have the added ad benefit of eight nights of World Series programming.

ESPN wins Monday
But just as with Sunday's NFL regular season win over Major League Baseball's post-season, ESPN was the highest-rated network in the demo last night, as the Tennessee Titans scored a 31-21 victory and a 4.6/12 rating and share. But despite their unbeaten status, the Tennessee Titans don't play in a giant market like New York or New England -- and ESPN had to compete against the World Series -- so ratings were 9% lower than "Monday Night Football's" season average.

No need to use an umbrella as a dancing partner a la "Singing in the Rain" for "Dancing with the Stars." But the show had reason to kick up its heels, because with CBS's sitcoms in repeats, "Dancing" was the highest-rated broadcast show last night, delivering a 4.2/10 for a 90-minute episode. "Samantha Who?" followed with a 2.8/6, which was about its average. "Boston Legal" was also average with a 2.1/5, but that's bad news for ABC as the critical hit remains a commercial challenge, finishing last at 10 p.m. to a repeat of CBS's "CSI: Miami" (2.9/7). NBC's "My Own Worst Enemy," which had its lowest rating yet, a 2.3/6, was third in the timeslot. For the night, ABC was second with a 3.3/8.

CBS (3.1/8) was third on a night it often wins, as repeats eroded ratings. "The Big Bang Theory" was down 11% from last week to a 3.1/8 and "How I Met Your Mother" slipped 22% to a 3.1/7. "Two and a Half Men" (3.8/9), which usually makes the week's top ten list, lost a quarter of last week's viewers. And "Worst Week," which usually runs at 9:30 p.m., was replaced by a rerun of "Gary Unmarried," (2.9/7) which retained ratings from its lead-in at a 76% rate, compared to "Worst Week's" 63% clip last Monday.

NBC (2.9/7) finished fourth, but both "Chuck" (2.6/7) and "Heroes" (3.9/9) stayed stable from last week, as opposed to the 8% loss for "My Own Worst Enemy."

And the CW delivered a 1.6/4, as presumably 14% more are whispering about "Gossip Girl" (1.6/4) than last week. But lead-out (melo)drama "One Tree Hill" fell 11% from last Monday's delivery to a 1.7/4.

The solid series delivery for the CW is just the latest example of how the sun has shined on the early part of the network's female-focused schedule. But things get tougher as the week goes on, particularly since the network jettisoned the stable staple WWE Smackdown!, which (at the risk of raining on the CW's parade) delivered an identical 1.7/4 and 1.6/4 for two episodes on new cable partner USA last night.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Tuesday: The nation is focused on Nov. 4. But come the 5th -- let alone inauguration day, Jan. 20 -- President Obama or McCain will have to govern. PBS's "Frontline" gives a foreign policy dossier in "The War Briefing," which may show that the lucky one next Tuesday is the one who loses...
Wednesday: Ever feel like a ball game's too long? Join World Series Game 6 in the bottom of the sixth as play resumes in soggy Philly.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Will the suspended game create suspense? Or will interest wash out, too?

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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.
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