Taylor Swift, Nascar Fuel ABC to Second Place in Key Demo

Rash Report: But NBC's 'Sunday Night Football' Wins Night

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Two country crossovers, Nascar and Taylor Swift, were watched with varying levels of interest on ABC's Sunday night schedule.

Taylor Swift on the 'American Music Awards.'
Taylor Swift on the 'American Music Awards.' Credit: ABC
Nascar, which long ago zoomed past its hillbilly image to become a slick, well-oiled marketing machine, crowned Jimmie Johnson champion for the fourth time. But unlike most sports, Nascar's biggest race is its first of the year, as February's Daytona 500 green flags the season. Conversely, the sports' checkered flag event in November was run over by, well, an NFL overrun and wrap-up show, as CBS's NFL overrun in the first half hour of primetime scored a 6.0/17 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, and NBC's "Football Night in America" notched a 3.4/9 for its 90-minute run, compared to a 1.6/5 for the Ford 400 Nascar race from 7-7:30p.m. (all based on Nielsen fastaffiliate ratings, with final live-plus-same-day data to be released Tuesday).

But at 8 p.m., following an abbreviated "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.0/5), Taylor Swift's rapid ascension to pop-culture crossover stardom continued, as she won five awards, including an Artist of the Year nod, less than two weeks after she was named the Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards.

ABC was rewarded, too, with what the network reports was its biggest overall audience for the awards show since 2002, and its top demo delivery, a preliminary 5.5/14, since 2004.

But in the end, as with most Sundays, the NFL sacked its entertainment competition over on NBC, which followed "Football Night in America" with the "Sunday Night Football" game. But partly due to a less compelling matchup than last week's New England Patriots-Indianapolis Colts game (and partly due to the AMAs), the Philadelphia Eagles' victory over the Chicago Bears' demo delivery was down a third in preliminary ratings to a 5.6/14. But it was still good enough for NBC to finish first with an overall 4.8/12.

CBS was third overall with a 3.2/8, with "60 Minutes" (3.4/9), "Amazing Race" (3.5/8), "Cold Case" (2.0/5) and "Three Rivers"(1.6/4 for the first half hour) ran. Fox was fourth with a 2.7/7, as it missed its usual NFL overrun. Instead it ran "Brothers" (1.0/3) and a "Simpsons" repeat (1.9/5), leading into original episodes of Fox's not-so-dominant animated comedies, as "The Simpsons" and "Cleveland Show" (both 3.3/8) were down 20% and 23% from regular levels in the 8 p.m. hour, while in the next hour "Family Guy" (2.8/7) and "American Dad" (1.8/5) plummeted 42% and 49%, respectively, from season-to-date original episode averages.

Rash gridsEnlarge
See how all the shows did in the ratings.

And on ABC, it wasn't only Jimmie Johnson and Taylor Swift who were crossover artists making news. Michael Jackson, who crossed over from R&B to become the "King of Pop," won four posthumous awards at the AMAs. And while Taylor Swift may have helped spike the AMA ratings and lead ABC (4.5/12) to a second-place finish last night, it was a different kind of crossover from singer Adam Lambert that's stealing the headlines today. His sexually provocative performance hardly evoked another fellow former "American Idol" contestant, Carrie Underwood, yet another artist blurring musical and cultural genres.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Perhaps the only less likely story than the Depression-era racehorse Seabuscuit was the best-selling book and hit movie about him. Revisit how down-on-their-luck Americans rallied around the racehorse by watching PBS's "American Experience."
Tuesday: While it's lacked the buzz of previous seasons, it still may be worth checking out the ninth season finale of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
The ratings race between two reality shows about losing and finding family ties as the series finale of TLC's "Jon and Kate Plus 8" runs against the series premiere of ABC's "Find my Family."

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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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