It's Sports Fans vs. 'Desperate Housewives'

Rash Report: Networks Air Full Slate of Live Sporting Events

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MINNEAPOLIS ( -- It's not unusual to hear a lot of Monday-morning water-cooler talk about "Desperate Housewives." But some of it may have truly been about desperate housewives after a weekend with wall-to-wall sports in both daytime and prime time.
'Desperate Housewives' had ABC's top spot with a 5.9/14, slightly higher than last week but still 9% lower than the season average.
'Desperate Housewives' had ABC's top spot with a 5.9/14, slightly higher than last week but still 9% lower than the season average. Credit: ABC

To be sure, many of the viewers were women, who make up an increasing percentage of fans for some leagues. And there might be many men just as put off by a weekend with two straight nights of two of the big four networks airing nothing but sports. And this doesn't even count the NHL dropping the puck on opening weekend and NCAA Football on local, national and regional channels.

Fierce competition
Last night, ABC's "Desperate Housewives" collided with NBC's "Sunday Night Football" and Fox's "National League Championship Series," with mixed results for all.

Fox won the night with an overall 4.5/12 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic, yet it wasn't due to the national pastime (baseball) but rather the Nielsen pastime (football). Game Three of the Philadelphia Phillies vs. Los Angeles Dodgers National League Championship Series delivered a 2.7/7, compared to the 8.2/25 for an NFL overrun and 7.6/22 for post-game show "The OT." (All ratings reflect approximate times and Nielsen fast-affiliate data. Final live-plus-same-day data will be released Tuesday.)

The Fox game and post-game easily beat NBC's pre-game "Football Night in America" (2.5/7), but NBC picked up to a 5.2/5 for "Sunday Night Football," which had the San Diego Chargers shock the New England Patriots by a resounding 30-10 score. The game went past 11 p.m. -- the cutoff for fast-affiliate ratings -- so final numbers may be higher. But initial ratings point to an outcome 5% lower than last week and nearly a quarter lower than the season average, which is indicative of both the lopsided result and the loss of marquee QB Tom Brady, New England's star who was injured in the first week.

For the night, NBC tied ABC for second with a 3.8/10. "Desperate Housewives" had ABC's top spot with a 5.9/14, slightly higher than last week but still 9% lower than the season average. "Housewives" 's Sunday sibling series, "Brothers and Sisters," followed with a 3.6/9, which also was down from last week (-5%) and from its season average (-14%).

No laughing matter
The lead-ins for "Housewives" were also sacked by football, as "America's Funniest Home Videos" was down 27% from last week to a 1.9/6. "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (3.7/9) nearly doubled the ratings for "America's Funniest Home Videos" but also slightly under-delivered its season average.

CBS, despite also having a late game, was fourth with an overall 2.5/6. "60 Minutes" (2.0/6) fell below its early season average, followed by "Amazing Race" (2.8/7, off 15%) as well as "Cold Case" (2.7/6) and "The Unit" (2.6/7), both of which were near season averages.

And week two of the new CW Sunday lineup generally held last week's premiere numbers, as "In Harm's Way" (.3/1), "Valentine" (.4/1) and "Easy Money" (.3/1) averaged a .3/1. This might make the network -- or, more directly, Media Rights Capital, which programs the night -- feel desperate itself, since it will be hard to get any kind of TV traction this fall against the continuing blitz of sports and dramas like "Desperate Housewives."

If March has its madness, October's an octopus of eight entities -- Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAA Football, NASCAR, PGA and even the beginning of NCAA Basketball -- vying for viewers. This makes this month the best for many sports fans. But for those housewives, house husbands or house singles desperate for diversion, it may be hard to get the set, as it seems one -- or eight -- of those arms always has the remote control.

Monday: OK, even die-hard fans may be in sports overload. So it's good that interesting options can be found on NBC, with the series premiere of the new Christian Slater spy drama "My Own Worst Enemy." That could also be the title of tonight's "American Experience" on PBS, which reassesses Richard Nixon, who like Slater's character, struggles with a split personality.
Tuesday: This election season, forgo the heat of cable news and go toward the light of PBS, which offers "The Choice 2008," an intelligent in-depth perspective on the presidential aspirants. PBS's previous "Choice" specials, dating back to 1988, have usually been the best broadcast journalism of that campaign season.

NBC used valuable prime-time promotional time during the Olympics to gin up interest in "My Own Worst Enemy." Will it pay off?

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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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