MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- In an era of rising costs and falling revenue, some media mavens may wonder how long the National Football League can sustain record rights fees. That will be determined when the next contracts are up, but last night's ratings on CBS are an indication that NFL nets should gird to pay more for gridiron rights.
CBS not only scored big with the AFC Championship Game, it also used it as a promotional platform for its new hit series, "The Mentalist," which received some Sunday sampling, sure to help its Tuesday viewership. Together the game and the police procedural delivered a 12.0/29 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, well above ABC's 3.0/7, Fox's 1.8/4, NBC's 1.3/4 and the CW's .4/1 (based on Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings. Final live-plus-same-day data released Tuesday will include the portion of the game that began before 7 p.m. and ended after 10 p.m., as well as reflect total demo delivery for "The Mentalist").
ABC was more competitive not only because its Sunday lineup is more female-focused but because it ran original episodes of "America's Funniest Home Videos" (1.8/5), "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (2.9/7), "Desperate Housewives" (4.6/10) and "Brothers & Sisters" (2.8/7).
The CW also tried the more female-focused -- or, maybe more accurately, mom-focused -- "Mr. Mom" (.4/1), which at least was able to double the .2/1 for its rerun of "Jericho."
Fox and NBC, two networks that know well the prime-time power of the NFL, went with repeats. Fox began with goofy game show "Hole in the Wall," which delivered a mere 1.4/4. But that's probably to be expected, considering Fox's male viewing base was probably watching the game on CBS. It showed for the shows that ran afterward as well: Repeats of "The Simpsons" (1.7/4 at 8 p.m., 2.3/5 at 8:30 p.m.) and "Family Guy" (2.2/5 at 9 and 9:30 p.m.) resulted in a relatively low 1.8/4 nightly average.
NBC, which often is the recipient of an NFL spike, instead looked like a rag-tag Pop Warner team, delivering a daytime-like 1.3/3 with a two-hour "Dateline" (1.1/3) and a repeat of "Saturday Night Presidential Bash" (1.7/4).
WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Before watching the inauguration of a president, check out the alternative by watching "The Queen," which won Helen Mirren an Oscar, at 8 p.m. on Bravo.
Tuesday: Wall-to-wall coverage of the inauguration of Barack Obama.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Week two for Fox's "24" will indicate if last week's 30% demo dip from the last full season, in 2007, is the beginning of a downward trend for the drama.
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.