First Week of the Year Is All About Football

Rash Report: Eight of the Top 10 Shows Were Pigskin-Related

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- It's 2009! Out with the old and in with the new, right? Well, not quite yet -- at least not when it comes to the week's top 10 programs in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic. The list is a throwback to last year -- and in some cases, last decade. Familiar football games and a network drama dominated, highlighting how 2008 was mostly a lost year for the networks.

NBC's Saturday wild-card playoff game was the week's most watched prime-time telecast.
NBC's Saturday wild-card playoff game was the week's most watched prime-time telecast. Credit: AP
Of course, the focus on football shouldn't be a surprise during a week when college football crowned its king with the Bowl Championship Series. But the NFL intercepted some of the top spots as well, as football games and football fragments ate up eight of the top 10 spots.

Final live-plus-same-day data aren't yet available for the final football game of the college season, but the fast affiliates indicate Fox's FedEx National Championship is pacing higher than last year, with a 8.7/22 from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m., good for the week's No. 2 slot. The BCS pregame show, which didn't run a full half-hour, scored sixth with a 7.2/20.

Other bowl games that blitzed into or near the top 10 were the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl (eighth, with a 6.0/16) and the Allstate Sugar Bowl (12th, 4.3/12).

Fans' favorite
As popular as the college game is, especially during bowl season, the NFL is still the fans' favorite. NBC's Saturday wild-card playoff game was the week's most watched prime-time telecast, with a 10.0/27. Football fragments such as pre- and postgame shows also were highly rated: Fox's "NFC Wild Card Post Gun" was third, with an 8.0/21, followed by the "Postgame" was seventh with a 6.2/16. NBC's "Pre-kick" was fourth, with a 7.6/24, while the "bridge" between two wild-card games was fifth, with a 7.2/23.

The only non-sport series in or near the top 10: ABC's "Desperate Housewives," which was ninth, with a 5.2/12; "Grey's Anatomy," 10th, with a 5.1/12; and NBC's "The Biggest Loser," 11th, with a 4.5/11.

The only freshman scripted series that even came close to the top 10 was "The Mentalist," which delivered a 14th-place 4.0/10. But this series is successful precisely because it doesn't seem too new. Indeed, "The Mentalist" is part of the groupthink of CBS's police procedurals -- that rational science (if occasionally irrational cops) can create order in an irrational world.

With viewing so "in with the old and out with the new," it's fitting a long-planned technological transformation is also having a hard time moving forward. President-elect Barack Obama has joined the chorus calling for a delay in the Feb. 17 transition to digital TV, as fears increase that too many households will have snow on their screens.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Friday: CBS's Canadian import, "Flashpoint," isn't flashy, but its successful summer run is indicative of how CBS has defied ratings gravity this season. It returns -- and has a good chance of staying -- this Friday.
Saturday: It's the best week for the NFL playoffs, as eight teams play four games to determine next week's AFC and NFC Championship Games. The phoenix-like Arizona Cardinals, who rose from an end-of-season slumber to beat the Atlanta Falcons, take on the Carolina Panthers on Fox.
Sunday: Last year's Golden Globe Awards looked more like a press conference on C-SPAN than the often boozy, bawdy banquet that often make them more fun, if less important, than February's Academy Awards.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
As with last night's fight between the female-focused "Grey's Anatomy" on ABC and the BCS Championship on Fox, expect a gender gap (if not a gulf) on Sunday as the Golden Globes run against tough guy Jack Bauer on the season premiere of Fox's "24."

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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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