'Sunday Night Football' Ratings Decline for Fourth Week

Rash Report: Maybe NBC Should Consider Putting Sarah Palin in the Booth

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Maybe it's because of lackluster teams. Or maybe its competition from the baseball playoffs, including Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on TBS. Or maybe some desperate housewives (or househusbands) got control of the remote after yet another testosterone TV weekend with college and pro football. But ratings have declined for four straight weeks on NBC's "NFL Sunday Night Football," which delivered a 3.3/8 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic in last night's Nielsen fast affiliate ratings.
Ratings have declined for four straight weeks on NBC's 'NFL Sunday Night Football.' Perhaps Sarah Palin could help.
Ratings have declined for four straight weeks on NBC's 'NFL Sunday Night Football.' Perhaps Sarah Palin could help. Credit: AP/NBC

It's likely that number will go up once the final live-plus-same-day data is released tomorrow. On average, since the season started there has been an 11% spike from the fast affiliates, which end at 11 p.m., to live plus same day. But based on the final data, the last four weeks scored a 9.0/22 for Dallas vs. Green Bay, followed by a 6.9/17 for Philadelphia vs. Chicago; a 5.5/14 for Pittsburgh vs. Jacksonville, and last week saw a 5.2/13 for New England vs. the Chargers.

Much of the recent ratings erosion is, ironically, due to what also makes the NFL so watchable -- parity. Indeed, the only unbeaten team isn't the defending Super Bowl Giants, but the Titans of Tennessee, which are hardly a marquee team.

The parity on the gridiron is also creating parity on the schedule grid, as ABC and CBS tied for first with an overall 3.7/9, followed by Fox's third place 3.2/8 and CBS's fourth place 2.8/7. (The CW, however, is barely a player at this level, as "In Harm's Way," "Valentine" and "Easy Money" all delivered a 0.2/1.)

CBS itself was aided by football, as an NFL overrun delivered a 6.3/19, leading into a 3.8/10 for "60 Minutes," a 2.9/7 for "Amazing Race," a 2.7/6 for "Cold Case" and a 2.3/6 for the first half-hour of "The Unit" (all times and ratings approximate due to the NFL overrun).

ABC, conversely, didn't have to scramble due to an NFL overrun and remained the non-NFL alternative, with "Desperate Housewives" (5.6/12), "Brothers and Sisters" (3.6/9) and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (3.6/9) winning their time periods. Earlier, "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.1/6) lost its timeslot, but won 11% more viewers than last week.

That's probably because Fox did not have an NFL overrun and instead ran reruns of "The Simpsons" (1.6/5 and 2.4/7) from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. An original episode of the highly original show followed with a 3.8/10, which was 6% higher than last week. "King of the Hill" (3.5/8) had a similar bump, and 9% more in the demo watched "The Family Guy" (4.7/10). "American Dad," however, was down 6% from last week to a 3.3/7.

As for NBC, pre-game show "Football Night in America" (2.1/6) led into the game. And, indeed, as with all fall Sundays, it was football night in the country. But maybe after following football afternoon, and football Saturday and Friday, it will take a more marquee matchup for NBC to once again sack CBS and ABC.

Either that or NBC should consider putting Sarah Palin in the booth along with John Madden and Al Michaels, as the night before she brought "Saturday Night Live" to life with its best ratings in 14 years (at least according to Nielsen overnight data, with final demo distinctions available mid-week).

WHAT TO WATCH: Monday: As part of their ongoing compelling campaign coverage, PBS continues its "American Experience" series on the presidents, this time taking a look at the larger-than-life Lyndon Baines Johnson.
Tuesday: TCM runs an original documentary on the gangster genre in film with "Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: How strong will week two of "My Own Worst Enemy" be on NBC?

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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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