Obama Boosts '60 Minutes' to Biggest Audience Since '99

Rash Report: If Nothing Else, President-elect Already a Stimulus for Old Media

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- It's not yet certain what will be in President-elect Barack Obama's economic-stimulus plan. But if it's anything like his audience-stimulus plan, the markets may rebound more quickly than expected.
President-elect Obama on '60 Minutes.'
President-elect Obama on '60 Minutes.' Credit: CBS

After record-setting ratings for his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, his election-night victory speech and even his half-hour infomercial, the soon-to-be president and first lady's first post-election prime-time interview gave "60 Minutes" its biggest audience since the end of the Clinton administration in 1999. In the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, "60 Minutes" clocked in at a 6.4/16 rating and share, based on Nielsen fast-affiliate data (final live-plus-same-day ratings will be released Tuesday).

Of course, being the sports addict he is, President-elect Obama himself may have been watching the Pittsburgh Steelers' victory over the San Diego Chargers, which also easily won its 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. overrun timeslot with a 7.7/21.

NBC scores again
And if Mr. Obama had any time in between vetting cabinet secretaries, he may have switched over to NBC after the interview to watch the Dallas Cowboys play the Washington Redskins. That scored a 6.2/14 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., up from 2.7/7 for the pregame "Football Night in America." Once Nielsen releases its final ratings -- which will reflect the actual end time of the game and should show about an 11% rise -- NBC's first-place 5.3/13 overall average will probably expand.

CBS delayed every show about half an hour due to its NFL overrun, and was second with a 4.4/11. "The Amazing Race" (3.4/8) fumbled about 47% of its "60 Minutes" lead-in, despite rising 10% over its season average. "Cold Case" (2.9/7) and "The Unit" (2.5/6) followed and tracked around their averages.

ABC also had a sports overrun, but, at least early in the night, it had the opposite effect of the pigskin and president-elect on CBS. The checkered flag of a Nascar race delivered a 2.4/6 -- less than a third of the final whistle of the Steelers' win -- and probably held down demos for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (3.4/8), which slipped 11% from its season average. "Desperate Housewives" (6.2/13) and "Brothers & Sisters" (3.7/9), however, did what soaps are supposed to do: entertain and retain hooked viewers, as both hit their season averages. ABC ranked third for the night with a 3.9/9.

Guys intercepted
Fox was fourth with a 3.1/7, as it was without its own usual NFL overrun and certainly didn't have the new president. It did, however, have a "King" -- or, more accurately, two, as a repeat (1.5/4) and original (3.2/7) "King of the Hill" bookended a repeat (2.4/6) and original (3.9/9) episode of "The Simpsons." Fox's "animation domination" lineup is designed to appeal to male viewers, which mean's it's also susceptible to guys being intercepted by football. So it isn't surprising that the Dallas/D.C. game led to 13% and 11% demo drops for the original "Simpsons" and "King," respectively. "Family Guy" (4.2/6) and "American Dad" (3.2/7) followed and also slid, down 9% and 6% from their season averages.

Just as some sectors of the economy may be tougher to revive than others, some nights on some networks may be rescue-resistant: For the third straight week, the CW's Sunday lineup -- outsourced to Media Rights Capital -- averaged a 0.2 rating and zero share for the night ("In Harm's Way," 0.2/1; "Valentine," 0.2/0; "Easy Money").

It's always possible new viewers will find those dramas. But up against the drama of the NFL, "Desperate Housewives" and a desperate nation clinging to every word from its newly elected president, the MRC lineup may need to just bail out and try new shows.

Monday: The most interesting viewing may be not on but about NBC, as Ben Silverman, the architect of the network's struggling schedule, appears on PBS's "Charlie Rose."
Tuesday: While Fox still will win the night with "House," CBS has the hot hand with savvy navy drama "NCIS" and programming plebe "The Mentalist." Find out why, starting at 8 p.m.

NBC may be its own worst enemy for keeping "My Own Worst Enemy" in the 10 p.m. time slot after last week's cancellation announcement, as nonviewers have no incentive to sample and the few who have been loyal viewers may move to other options.

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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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