NFL, 'Survivor' Thrive on Sunday Night

Rash Report: Football, Reality to Combine on CBS's Super Bowl Night, too

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- The most coveted promotional platform on TV -- the post Super Bowl slot -- for the past several seasons has been used to boost emerging hits such as ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and NBC's "The Office" into network-defining dramas and sitcoms -- but CBS announced it will use the upcoming big game for the program premiere of "Undercover Boss," a reality-TV show.

'Survivor: Samoa'
'Survivor: Samoa' Credit: CBS
After reading Sunday's ratings race results, who can blame the network?

After all, the night was dominated demographically in the ad-centric adult 18-49 target by the two top genres in network TV: football and reality.

NBC won, like it usually does with fall football. NFL recap show "Football Night in America" scored a 2.8/8 rating and share, according to the Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings. This was followed by a 5.6/14 for the "Sunday Night Football" game, in which the Carolina Panthers upset the Minnesota Vikings. Overall from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. the network averaged a 4.5/12, although this will change once the post-prime portion of the game is accounted for with final live-plus-same-day data, which will be released Tuesday.

Fox (4.5/12) was second, even though its "Animation Domination" lineup was all repeats ("The Simpsons," 2.8/7; "Cleveland Show," 3.1/8; "Family Guy," 2.5/6; "American Dad," 2.3/6). Instead, it relied on the highest-rated program of the night -- an NFL overrun and the post-game show "The O.T.," which combined for a 7.0/20 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Conversely, ABC (1.7/5) was run over by the overrun and games -- both actual and the facsimile of reality TV -- as it finished fourth with a 1.7/5. First up was a repeat of "America's Funniest Home Videos," which was followed by the theatrical release "The Santa Clause 3" (1.9/5) and a "Desperate Housewives" rerun (1.2/3).

ABC fell below CBS, which usually finishes last on a night the network used to own. With some key markets having an NFL overrun final live-plus-same-day data will provide more accurate ratings. But preliminary data suggests a 2.4/7 for "60 Minutes," followed by the season finale of "Survivor: Samoa," which, in matching last fall's finale with a 4.4/11, showed remarkable resiliency for a decade-old franchise. And between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. "Survivor Reunion" (3.9/10) was actually up a tenth of a ratings point.

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

But overall, CBS still finished third with a 3.8/10, as the NFL -- a franchise nearing 90 -- is just that much more powerful. All of which explains how CBS, in looking at the Sunday results, must have thought of football and reality: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

WHAT TO WATCH:
Monday: Well, it's certainly no classic like 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." But 2003's "I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown!" will have to do until all the Christmas concerts start on PBS later this week.
Tuesday: A bit edgier holiday animation can be seen on the Disney Channel, which runs Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas."

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Like a musical score itself, the first two stanzas of "The Sing-Off" were upbeat, while episode three's ratings were downbeat. Will tonight's series finale on NBC end with a crescendo, especially as it's running against reruns on CBS and Fox?

WHAT TO WATCH:
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."
Wednesday: Great voices from young people at 9 p.m. on Wednesday usually means "Glee." But it's on hiatus, so switch to PBS for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Ratings for the penultimate performances on "So You Think You Can Dance," the Fox reality hit that made the jump from a summer series to a fall one, which is just one of the reasons Fox won the November sweeps.

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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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