American President No Match for National Football League

Rash Report: Obama on '60 Minutes,' Oprah Special, but 'Sunday Night Football' Scores

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- With only a 44% approval rate, today's Rasmussen Reports Daily Presidential Tracking Poll indicates President Obama has hit a new low. But a different kind of poll -- Nielsen's nightly ratings race, which measures pop culture more than politics -- indicates that even if fewer approve, they're not necessarily tuning the president out.

Oprah's Christmas White House special notched a 2.8/7 rating and share in the adult 18-49 demographic.
Oprah's Christmas White House special notched a 2.8/7 rating and share in the adult 18-49 demographic. Credit: Pete Souza
Indeed, Obama could be seen twice on network TV last night, with both performing relatively well. ABC ran "Christmas at the White House," in which Obama and Oprah Winfrey, who were last seen together on the hustings, hustling to try to get Obama to the White House, sat down together in it. The Obama/Oprah special got the vote of a 2.8/7 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, which was 8% more that part one of a June White House interview with NBC's Brian Williams and 22% higher than the next night's part two. "Christmas at the White House" ran after "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," whose two-hour special built a 3.1/8. This followed a 2.1/6 for "America's Funnies Home Videos," as ABC finished third with an overall 2.8/7. (All based on Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, with final live + same day data to be released Tuesday.)

This was right behind CBS's 2.9/7 (although the post-prime portion may lower this number), as it, too, featured an Obama interview. Although this one had a harder edge, as "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft pressed the president on a variety of policy issues. Because it started late, the closest estimates reflect a combination of "60 Minutes" and the beginning of a repeat of "The Mentalist" from 7:30-8:30 p.m., and indicate a 3.1/9, which would be 55% higher than last week, when "60 Minutes" didn't have the protection of an NFL lead-in.

The NFL overrun that preceded "60 Minutes" scored a 6.7/19 from 7-7:30 p.m., soaring above "Funniest Videos" and Fox's "Brothers" (1.1/3 at 7 p.m. and 1.0/3 at 7:30 p.m.) but was below NBC's "Football Night in America" (3.6/10 from 7-8:30 p.m.)

Pigskin beating the president was reflective of the night overall, as despite the ratings rise for Oprah's special and "60 Minutes," the American president was no match for the National Football League. The "Sunday Night Football" between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles posted a 7.0/17 from 8:30-11 p.m.

Rash grids

See how all the shows did in the ratings.
Early estimates by NBC indicate that when Nielsen releases final data on Tuesday, over 20.9 million total viewers will have watched, which would be 57% more than last year's Week 14 game. For the entire prime portion, NBC delivered a 5.7/15 in the demo, which easily put it into first place.

Fox, conversely, didn't have its usual football lead-in, nor a special with the president. But it did have its own slice of Americana (at least circa 2009), but did run its animated sitcoms, which often mock our pigskin and politically-driven culture. But each were down compared to their original episode season to date levels, which resulted in the network finishing fourth with an overall 2.5/6, as "The Simpsons" (3.2/8), "Cleveland Show" (3.0/7) "Family Guy" (3.8/9) and "American Dad" (3.1/7) were all off from regular levels.

Monday: CBS's Monday night comedy block is TV's most commercially successful sitcom lineup is a critical hit, too (well, maybe not "Accidentally on Purpose"). But it, as well as "How I Met Your Mother," "Two and a Half Men" and "Big Bang Theory" all have original episodes.
Tuesday: "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which plays again on ABC, is still the only evergreen Christmas special that actually mentions Christ. Linus' theological lesson gets a bit more of a workout on PBS right after, when "Frontline" examines "From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians."

It's been a big fall for singing performances on TV, with "Glee" a breakout hit and award shows rewarded with more viewers than last year. So it will be interesting to see who gets higher ratings -- the amateurs on NBC's program premiere of "The Sing-Off" or the professional, Jennifer Hudson -- who was discovered as an amateur on Fox's "American Idol" -- who hosts "I'll be Home for Christmas" on Fox.

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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

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