NBC Wins With 'Sunday Night Football,' Fox Lands Second With Cowboys-Broncos

Rash Report: Gridiron Wins on Sunday

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MINNEAPOLIS (AdAge.com) -- NFL football sacked everything on TV last night. Including, at least for the first hour, NBC, the network that actually ran the big game.

'Sunday Night Football'
'Sunday Night Football' Credit: AP
But the game was big enough for NBC to win the night with an overall 5.2/13 rating and share in the ad-centric adult 18-49 demographic (based on Nielsen Fast Affiliate ratings; final live + same day data to be released Tuesday will take into account exact times of NFL overruns.)

From 8:30-11 p.m., the Pittsburgh Steelers' victory over the San Diego Chargers scored a 6.2/15, up from the Fast Affiliate data from last week. Three segments of "Football Night in America," spanning 7-8:30 p.m., averaged a 3.7/10.

But it was Fox that dominated demos, let alone households, the first hour, as an NFL overrun of a Dallas Cowboys-Denver Broncos thriller from 7-7:30 p.m., averaged a 7.6/22, followed by "The O.T." (4.2/12).

This provided a primetime platform for Fox's post-football "animation domination" lineup, including "The Simpsons" (4.3/11), "The Cleveland Show" (4.2/10), "Family Guy" (4.9/11) and "American Dad" (3.5/8). Longer-running series "Simpsons" held its audience from last week, while "Family Guy" and "American Dad" held 94% and 97%, respectively. But week two of last week's breakout, the "Family Guy" spinoff "The Cleveland Show" (4.2/10), fell 14%, which is to be expected, given its big bow, and the fact that it held 98% of its "Simpsons" lead-in suggests it will fit right in with the line-up. Overall, Fox finished second with a 4.8/12.

CBS, which every other week benefits from an NFL overrun, had a gridiron-less grid last night and fell to fourth with a 2.3/6. Only 10 p.m. drama "Cold Case" was up from last week, but that was only a tenth of a ratings point to 2.2/6. Conversely, "60 Minutes" (2.3/7) clocked 28% fewer viewers than last week, and "The Amazing Race" (2.8/7) lost 18%.

Particularly troubling to the network that won on Sundays for years was new organ donation hospital drama "Three Rivers," which itself may be in intensive care, as its CBS primetime premiere only delivered a 2.0/5, which was 26% less than the premiere ratings for the show it replaced in the timeslot, "Cold Case."

CBS's stumbles created an opportunity for the other non-NFL network of the night, ABC, as "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (3.4/8) was up 10% from last week, while "Desperate Housewives" (4.9/11) and "Brothers and Sisters" (3.2/8) increased 4% and 7%, respectively, from their season premieres.

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

The only program to show a decline was the season premiere of "America's Funniest Home Videos" (2.2/6, off 15% from last fall's first show), but against the Cowboys-Broncos game, this was to be expected. Overall, ABC was third with a 3.4/9.

So Sunday, once again, was dominated by the NFL, as it will probably be again next week. And, of course, tonight ESPN may receive record ratings as Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre faces his old Green Bay Packer pals on "Monday Night Football."

Monday: With a Minneapolis byline, the state of Minnesota might revoke my driver's license if I didn't recommend ESPN's Monday Night Football game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers.
Tuesday: Sure, you expect to learn something on PBS's "Nova." But who knew it did drama, too, such as "Darwin's Darkest Hour," a re-telling of the race to publish his theories ahead of a rival scientist.

The third consecutive week when CBS's "Big Bang Theory" supersedes sitcom "Two and a Half Men" as the night's, and indeed the week's, top-rated comedy.

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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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