Sunday Prime-Time Premieres Sink Below Last Year's Ratings

Rash Report: Follows Disappointing Debuts on Thursday

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The Dow isn't the only thing in free fall. After all six season premieres on Thursday fell below last year's ratings in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, almost all of the Sunday premieres faced the same fate.
Despite falling 7% from last fall's first showing, ABC's 'Desperate Housewives' was Sunday's highest-rated program.
Despite falling 7% from last fall's first showing, ABC's 'Desperate Housewives' was Sunday's highest-rated program. Credit: ABC

ABC, which finished third for the night with an overall 4.4/11 rating and share, has the night's highest-rated program, "Desperate Housewives," despite the show falling 7% from last fall's first showing to a 7.0/16. It was followed by "Brothers and Sisters," which slipped 6% to a 4.7/12. (These numbers may improve slightly once DVR viewing is reflected in the live-plus-same-day data, which will be released on Tuesday.)

Shaky 'Home'
Both programs were preceded by two episodes of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," which may need some reconstruction as well, as episode one fell 24% to a 2.2/7 and episode two dropped 23% to a 3.7/9.

The other soapy Sunday network, the CW, ran repeats of serialized dramas "One Tree Hill" (.6/2) and "Privileged" (.6/1), which ran into serialized melodrama "America's Next Top Model," which aired a rerun and delivered a .7/2, as the network averaged an overall .6/2.

NBC was the night's winner, with an overall 5.2/13, led by a 6.2/15 for the 8 to 11 p.m. ET portion of the "Sunday Night Football" game between the Bears and the Eagles. Final numbers may hike the pigskin performance, as the game went past the prime-time cutoff. Earlier, "Football Night in America" scored a 2.9/8.

Both CBS and Fox also had football overruns, but Fox's big game between the Cowboys and the Redskins spiked at an 8.0/24 from 7 to 7:30 p.m., while CBS's lackluster match-up between the Raiders and the Chargers only rated a 1.8/6 for the same time period. CBS followed football with "60 Minutes" (approximately a 2.5/7), leading into the "Amazing Race" premiere, which eroded approximately 31% to a 3.0/7. "Cold Case" was cold itself, losing about 16% to a 2.8/6. The timeslot premiere of "The Unit" (2.6/7) followed, at about the same level of its Tuesday start last fall.

Viewers not feeling animated
Fox followed its football overrun with "The OT" postgame show, which delivered a 4.5/13. "Animation domination" followed with season premieres, but nearly all fell this fall: "The Simpsons" (4.4/12) was down 6%, "King of the Hill" (3.3/8) was knocked down 13%, and "Family Guy" fell 20%. "American Dad" was the only show to supersede its premiere ratings, posting a 3.2/7, which was up 3% from last fall.

How far the contagion will go is anyone's guess. Downtown, the Dow was down an unlucky 7%, or 777 points, by Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, Midtown is looking for returning shows to return viewers.

The two trends converged on Friday, as the two guys who will be in charge of fixing finances come Jan. 21, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, held a debate on Friday and discussed the crisis. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that compared to expectations, ratings were down, with the highly hyped face-off not even making the top 10 televised debates.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: "Chuck" is charming -- both the program and the star (Zachary Levi) -- and returns tonight to NBC.
Tuesday: Iraq. Iran. North Korea. Wall Street. Need a break? "Lassie Comes Home" at 8 p.m. on TCM.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
The writers strike was tough on TV, but hardest on serialized dramas, particularly those in their first seasons. Accordingly, is there any life left in "Life," which makes its return Monday night post-"Heroes"?

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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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