Fox Scores, Thanks to Late-Running Game

Rash Report: With No 'Sunday Night Football,' NBC Takes Third

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- New year, same Sunday ratings result: The network with an NFL overrun runs over the competition, as Fox did last night, scoring first place with an overall 4.6/11 rating and share in the ad-centric 18-to-49 demographic, according to Nielsen fast-affiliate ratings (final live-plus-same-day data will be released Tuesday).

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings
Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings Credit: AP
The end of the Philadelphia Eagles vs. Minnesota Vikings playoff game was easily the most-viewed event of the night, at 9.3/24. Its rating was more than three times that of the second showing of Fox's "24" movie: The "Redemption" repeat delivered only a 2.2/5, little more than half its original showing in December.

With its NFL programming on the bench until the Super Bowl, NBC tried to get into the game with two different versions of sports programming. First up was a "Saturday Night Live: Sports Extra" special. But its 2.3/6 indicated that sports fans preferred the comic relief of the Vikings' offense on Fox compared with the old clips compilation. And it's not just live sports viewers seem to prefer but live "Saturday Night Live" as well: "Sports Extra" had only about half the rating of October's Thursday-night specials, which averaged 4.4 by tapping into the compelling presidential campaign.

The next athletes featured were the "Superstars of Dance," on the latest reality show to try to cut in to the millions who follow "Dancing with the Stars," ABC's highly rated reality show, which will soon start its eighth season. "Superstars" wasn't super, but it wasn't too bad, either, delivering a 3.1/7 for its two-hour premiere, which placed it second from 9 to 11 p.m. NBC was third for the night with an overall 2.7/7.

Good news and bad news
Second place went to ABC, which returned with original episodes of its Sunday sampling of reality shows ("America's Funniest Home Videos," 1.9/5, and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," 3.7/9) as well as scripted series ("Desperate Housewives," 5.2/12, and "Brothers & Sisters, 3.2/8). The good news in the new year for ABC: The latter three shows won their time periods. The bad news: All three were off their original episode averages. "Extreme Makeover" indexed at 90%, and "Desperate Housewives" and "Brothers & Sisters" were off 13% and 14% respectively from their lowest-rated original episodes of the season.

CBS's "60 Minutes" regularly gets clocked by Fox on the weeks the network doesn't have an NFL overrun, and last night was no exception, as the program's 2.0/5 just beat out "Funniest Videos." It's a good thing "60" just passed 40 years, as the expensive -- but valuable -- news magazine had basically the same ratings as the cheap "Million Dollar Password" (1.9/5), which is essentially a daytime game show that runs in prime time. Scripted series "Cold Case" (2.9/7) and "The Unit" (2.5/6) were slightly above their original episode averages, as CBS finished fourth with an overall 2.3/6.

Finishing fifth was the CW, as "Jericho" and the theatrical "Trail of the Pink Panther" both delivered .3/1 showings.

So in 2009, as in the strike-struck 2008, Jan. 4, the first big night of programming, was won with sports, featured only four hours of scripted series and already had repeats. Aren't hangovers supposed to go away after New Year's Day?

Monday: It's not yet clear if ABC's new reality series "True Beauty" will be winsome, let alone winning, but it should get some solid sampling coming out of the season premiere of "The Bachelor."
Tuesday: Change may be coming to Washington, but not to network TV, as ABC echoes the Bush administration's focus on homeland security with a controversial reality series with the same name.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: It may be a new year, but the same old genre will dominate, as only the CW has original episodes of scripted series.

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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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