Twenty-one.

That number, as in the 21 other Super Bowls that had higher ratings in the last 23 years, marks one compelling reason for NFL owners to consider changing the playoff format so the two best teams – regardless of conference – make it to the Super Bowl.

The game garnered a 41.3 rating and 62 share, though it slid to a 39.3/57 by the last half-hour. After a 24.7/39 for the postgame show, ABC managed only a 14.2/25 for “Extreme,” the latest Super Bowl lead-out to fritter away the greatest of all sampling opportunities. Only last year’s “The Good Life” and “John Larroquette Show” fared worse of any lead-outs since 1980.

The good news for ABC is that its Super Bowl rating essentially clinches the season’s ratings race (the Alphabet web had a 12.2/20 season-to-date after Sunday, CBS an 11.5/19 and NBC an 11.3/18).

The Super Bowl is not the only major special slipping in the ratings race. ABC’s “American Music Awards” got sacked for a loss on Jan. 30, the day after the big game. The show mustered only a 15.4/23, the worst figures since 1981. NBC, with repeats – “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” (8.8/13) and “Pretty Woman” (17.0/26) – edged the awards show by two-tenths of a ratings point.

With two heavy hitters in the women 18-49 category – the “AMA” grabbed a 12.4 and “Pretty Woman” a 12.2 – Fox wisely pulled “Melrose Place” and “Models Inc.” in favor of two hours of “Cops” reruns. Though the shows finished fourth in the ratings, Fox grabbed a second-place tie with men 18-49 from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and third place ahead of CBS for the rest of the night without sacrificing episodes of its dramas.

Fox bounced back bigtime on Tuesday, Jan. 31, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. with a heavy dose of tastelessness: “The O.J. Simpson Story,” which earned an 11.2/17, including a second-place 12.6/19 in its climactic half-hour.

The movie performed especially well with the 18-49 demo. With women 18-49, it earned second place in three of four half-hours and first place from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., while with men it finished second twice, third once, and first from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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