Saints in a Squeaker, Fox in a Blowout

Rash Report: NFC Championship Crushes Competition

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- The NFC Championship? A nail-biter, with the New Orleans Saints beating the Minnesota Vikings in overtime. The ratings race? A blowout, with preliminary prime-time estimates suggesting it was the most-watched event so far this TV season.

The New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings in overtime to win the NFC Championship.
The New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings in overtime to win the NFC Championship. Credit: AP
Nielsen fast affiliate ratings, which only track the prime-time portion, score it at a 19.0 rating and 43 share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, but that will likely rise once final live-plus-same-day data, which tracks the pre- and post-prime portions, is taken into account.

Regardless of the final number, it's just the latest audience evidence that not only is football the true national pastime (sorry, baseball purists) but that given the right content, the network TV business model works just fine.

NBC has to hope the same holds true for its upcoming Winter Olympics, which will start right after the Super Bowl between the Saints and the Indianapolis Colts. It can't be encouraged by the 0.6/1 for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, however, as not only did the run-up to the marquee Vancouver games event get blitzed by football, but it got sacked by reruns of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" (1.3/3) and two second showings of CBS's "Cold Case" (1.3/3 and 1.7/4).

ABC finished second overall with a 1.9/4, as its "America's Funniest Home Videos" (1.5/4) beat not only NBC's "Dateline" (0.7/2 for a two-hour episode), but the granddaddy of the newsmagazine genre, CBS's "60 Minutes" (1.3/3).

ABC then ran the highest-rated non-gridiron show on Sunday's grid -- "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (2.4/5) -- while CBS followed "60 Minutes" with a "CSI: NY" rerun (1.0/2).

CBS was third for the night with a 1.3/3, while NBC finished fourth with a 0.6/1.

But in the end, the only real scores that counted were 31-28, with the Saints marching into Miami to meet the Colts for the Super Bowl on Feb. 7, as well as whatever final number Nielsen issues which quantifies the degree of victory for Fox, and the NFL.

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

Monday: OK, so maybe you're not a big tennis fan. But if you've got cabin fever, the summer down under should look pretty good on ESPN 2's coverage of the Australian Open quarterfinals.
Tuesday: Maybe before Wednesday's State of the Union Address the president and Congress should watch PBS's "Frontline" investigation, "The Card Game," which examines the consumer loan industry and its impact on the national economy. It may be a repeat from November, but in order not to repeat the mess we're in, it may be worth a second look.

Ratings for "The Jay Leno Show" and "The Tonight Show" now that Conan O'Brien and the on-air feud are gone.

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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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