MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- It was BCS night for the networks: "Broadcast Championship Series."
Of course, it was also BCS night for college football fans as well, as "The BCS Selection Show" unveiled the pigskin pairings for the Bowl Championship Series that will determine a national championship for the NCAA season. The winner won't be known until Jan. 8, when Oklahoma and Florida play in BCS title Game in Miami. But on a big Sunday network night, "The Broadcast Championship Series" was won by Fox, with an overall 4.6/11 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, above ABC's 3.7/9, NBC's 3.6/9, CBS's 2.8/7 and CW's 0.5/1. (All figures are based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings and share, with final live-plus-same-day data released tomorrow.)
The "BCS Selection Show" notched a 3.9/10, but it was actually the National Football League, not NCAA football, which scored so well for Fox. An NFL overrun of the rivalry between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys delivered a 9.0/24 from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., followed by the post-game show "The OT," which rated a 6.2/16.
The guy-friendly football should have helped the network's male-skewing animation to also dominate, but at 8:30 p.m. "The Simpsons" (2.8/7) had ratings more akin to the usual timeslot occupant, "King of the Hill." "Family Guy" (3.1/7) and "American Dad" (2.4/5) followed and were also off, down 18% and 27%, respectively, most likely due to being repeats.
But they also ran against NBC's "Sunday Night Football," which delivered a 4.2/10 (final ratings will reflect the post-11 p.m. finish and will probably rise). Pre-game show "Football Night in America" (1.6/4) had a third of its audience intercepted by the afternoon's football game as "America's Team" lost to Pittsburgh on Fox.
The big night of TV that gave the networks the feel of a "Broadcast Championship Series" wasn't all about sports, of course, as female-focused schedules on ABC and CBS gave viewers options. ABC fared better, as dramas "Desperate Housewives" (5.9/13) at 9 p.m. and "Brothers and Sisters" (3.9/10) at 10 were up 13% and 5%, respectively, and probably pulled female viewers from CBS's "Hallmark Hall of Fame" (2.8/7) movie that ran during the same two hours.
The first two hours had mixed results as well: CBS's "60 Minutes" clocked a 2.6/7, missing the extra points it usually gets when the network has a football overrun. The season finale of "Amazing Race" followed with a 3.1/7, which was about par compared to recent season finales.
ABC built the 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. schedule around "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," running "Ty Pennington: Behind the Scenes" in lieu of "America's Funniest Home Videos." But the hour was on a firmer foundation with "Videos," as the special was actually about 24% lower rated at a 1.6/4. At 8 p.m. "Extreme Makeover," was right about at its season average with a 3.3/8.
Of course, just as with the Bowl Championship Series, the "Broadcast Championship Series" doesn't include every team. But if moral victories count, CW should feel like a winner, too, as its overall 0.5/1 was slightly up over last week, and more than double what the Sunday schedule used to deliver with Media Rights Capital programming. Sure, "Jericho" (0.4/1) and theatrical "The Cutting Edge" (0.6/1) won't win any championships, but the network seems to be back in the game after getting sacked so many Sundays prior.
WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: A series that may run forever ("A Charlie Brown Christmas") and one that ends forever (the series finale for "Boston Legal") are on ABC tonight.
Tuesday: Samuel L. Jackson, one of the most ubiquitous actors of his generation, is the focus of TCM's "American Cinematheque Tribute."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Always more rich in accolades than audience, will viewers tune in for the last "Boston Legal" episode?
~ ~ ~
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.