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Rash Report: NFL Season Attests to Power of Programming

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- A rout, which took away any suspense. The Dallas Cowboys and the New York Jets shutting out the Philadelphia Eagles and the Cincinnati Bengals? Well, sure. But the same could be said about the just-completed NFL regular season itself, as the league once again dominated Sunday's grid, while gridiron dominated the fall season's ratings each week.

The Jets beat the Bengals as NBC won Sunday night overall.
The Jets beat the Bengals as NBC won Sunday night overall. Credit: AP
Yesterday was just the latest example. NBC once again won the night overall with the combination of "Football Night in America," which scored a 3.1/8 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, followed by the prime-time portion of the Jets streaking past the Bengals, which notched a 5.5/13 from 8:30-11 p.m. Once the final live-plus-same-day data is released Tuesday, NBC's overall 4.6/11 fast-affiliate rating and share will probably rise even further.

Final numbers will also gauge the power of the two NFL overruns on CBS (3.9/10 from 7-7:30 p.m.) and Fox (4.5/12 from 7-8 p.m., which covers the overrun and post-game show "The O.T.") Fox took better advantage of the lead-in by running originals of its "Animation Domination" lineup ("The Simpsons," 4.0/10; "Cleveland Show," 3.3/8; "Family Guy," 3.9/9; "American Dad," 2.8/6) to finish second for the night with an overall 3.8/9.

Conversely, CBS ran repeats of "NCIS" (1.8/5 from 8:30-9:30 p.m.) and "Cold Case" (1.5/4 for both the 9:30-10:30 p.m. episode and the first half hour of the second). These followed a 2.6/7 for "60 Minutes" as CBS finished fourth with a 2.2/5.

In a sports rarity reflective of the NFL's hot streak, not only will there be a playoff rematch between the big games next week, with the Eagles and Bengals trying to avenge the blowouts, but the Arizona Cardinals -- who got whupped by the Green Bay Packers 33-7 -- will also play again next week.

All this should spike football ratings even higher. And at least for a weekend, it belies the belief-turned-conventional-wisdom that the broadcast TV model's days are numbered. As always, it's about content: Give viewers what they want, and the model looks a whole lot healthier.

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

And of course it need not be just sports. Sunday's second-highest-rated show was ABC's "Desperate Housewives," which hit a season high 5.2/12. Lead-out "Brothers and Sisters" (3.6/9) was up 13% and lead-ins "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.7/7) and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (3.3/8) also superseded their original episode averages by 29% and 6%, respectively, despite facing football overruns, as ABC (3.7/9) was just a tenth of a ratings point out of second place.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Sure, Boise State and Texas Christian University don't exactly evoke USC and Notre Dame, but the two teams have moved beyond upstart and seem set to become part of college football's new power structure. They meet tonight in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl on Fox.
Tuesday: Just in time for those New Year's resolutions, it's the season premiere of "The Biggest Loser" on NBC.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
For those who find the 25 bachelorettes on tonight's season premiere of "The Bachelor" to be quaint, ABC debuts "Conveyer Belt of Love," which takes speed dating to a whole new level. It's just the latest attempt to create compatible programming with "The Bachelor" franchise, and it just might work.

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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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