Sunday Television Traditions NFL and 'Simpsons' Dominate

Rash Report: Fox Franchises Are Network-Defining

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- Since its advent in the mid-1980s, Fox has had some seminal shows, including "American Idol," which some network rivals reverentially still refer to as "the Death Star." But perhaps the two TV shows that have given the most life to the network have been the acquisition of one franchise -- the NFC package -- and the development of another -- "The Simpsons."

'The Simpsons'
'The Simpsons' Credit: Fox
Both combined last night with episodes that became, or were scheduled as, special: The NFC Wild Card Game lived up to its billing, as the Phoenix Cardinals and Green Bay Packers combined for the highest-scoring playoff game in history before Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers literally kicked the game away, as his fumble-turned-boot of the ball turned into a turnover victory for the Cards. Afterward, "The Simpsons" ran a regular episode, and then its 20th Anniversary Special, followed up by an episode of what Fox hopes is also a long-lasting component of its "Animation Domination" franchise, "The Cleveland Show."

Because the game went into overtime and ended at 8:13 p.m., and because only Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, which are estimated on the half-hour, are available, specific program ratings are delayed until Tuesday's release of live-plus-same-day data. But from 7-10 p.m., Fox's official prime time, the network scored an 8.0/20 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, blitzing the 3.3/8 for ABC, a 2.2/5 for NBC, and a 1.6/4 for CBS.

Of course, Fox's rivals have some Sunday franchises of their own. ABC, in particular, counter-programs the testosterone-fueled Fox with "Desperate Housewives" (4.7/11), "Brothers and Sisters" (3.5/9), "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (3.2/8) and "America's Funniest Home Videos" (1.8/5). While "America's Funniest" was hit hard by the National Football League, the next three programs delivered right about at or, in the case of an 8% lift for "Brothers and Sisters," above the show's original episode averages.

CBS's Sunday stalwart "60 Minutes" became one of network TV's most successful series ever, partly due to football. But last night it was the victim of it, as it only delivered a 1.4/4, which was off almost half its usual average. Right after, on CBS's patched-together schedule, a rerun of "NCIS: Los Angeles" (1.0/3) ran, followed by an original "Cold Case" (1.9/4) and a repeat of "Criminal Minds."

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

And NBC, which just ended its most successful series, "Sunday Night Football," ran a two-hour "Dateline NBC" (1.5/4), which remarkably beat the journalistically superior "60 Minutes."

NBC then tried to re-launch a series, "Chuck," which the creators are trying to transition to a bit more James Bond than "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes." It delivered a 3.0/7, which was up 23% from its Monday original episode average last year. It moves to Mondays starting tonight, so it remains to be seen if it can retain viewers, as the shift of its core character's central premise may lose some loyalists, even if it gains some new fans. Either way, "Chuck," or any other program for that matter, will probably never be the phenomenon that football or "The Simpsons" has become by staying true to its appeal.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: The 100th episode of CBS's "How I Met Your Mother" features the show's breakout character, Barney (Neil Patrick Harris).
Tuesday: The debut of Ellen DeGeneres on Fox's "American Idol."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Will no competition from "Monday Night Football" or college bowl games raise ratings for the nets?

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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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