If there’s a level above and beyond boffo and whammo, Fox achieved it last week.
The most-watched Super Bowl on record combined with two hours each of TV’s No. 1 show and No. 1 drama for the biggest week ever for Fox — as well as the highest-rated week in primetime for any net in more than 11 years.
Fox was already well on its way to another lopsided victory for the sesh courtesy of midweek powers “American Idol,” “House” and new reality show “Moment of Truth,” but the Super Bowl helped it win by some ridiculous margins.
Nielsen estimates that Fox averaged a 12.9 rating/32 share in adults 18-49, more than double the combined averages of ABC (2.3/6), NBC (2.1/5) and CBS (1.7/4). It similarly dominated demos such as adults 25-54 (13.5/31) and people 12-34 (11.1/31), while the net’s total audience average in primetime (33.55 million) was more than five times that of any other broadcaster.
By winning in the 18-49 demo by the largest margin for any net since July 1996 — when NBC crushed the competish with the Summer Olympics from Atlanta — Fox has opened up considerable distance on its rivals for the season crown. Its nine-tenths advantage over runners-up ABC and NBC (4.1 to 3.2) reps the biggest lead for a net at this point in the season since NBC ruled in 1998.
Leading the way for Fox, of course, was Super Bowl XLII, as the thrilling game between the New York Giants and previously undefeated New England Patriots averaged a massive 37.5 rating/73 share in adults 18-49 and 97.45 million viewers overall. Fox so dominated Sunday that no program did better than a 2 share opposite the game from 6:30 to 10 p.m. ET.
The game comfortably superseded the 94.08 million viewers for Dallas-Pittsburgh on NBC in 1996 and the 93.18 million for Indianapolis-Chicago last year on CBS.
In the adults 18-49 demo rating (a category that doesn’t benefit from population increases), the Giants’ 17-14 victory over the Patriots garnered the best rating in eight years (since St. Louis-Tennessee on ABC in 2000), while its women 18-49 score (33.5/68) was the best for any Super Bowl in 12 years.
Fox, which racked up a record $2.7 million per 30-second spot during the Super Bowl, followed the big game with a huge 26-minute postgame show (26.6/54 in 18-49, 63.93m) and a special airing of “House” (12.9/31, 29.05m). The “House” episode, guest starring Mira Sorvino, set series records and drew the best ratings for any scripted show since the post-Super Bowl airing of ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” two years ago.
Earlier in the week, “American Idol” continued to outperform the other broadcast nets combined on both Tuesday (11.0/28 in 18-49, 28.22m) and Wednesday (10.1/26, 25.57m), though the show remains down by double-digit percentages vs. last year.
And in the hours behind “Idol,” Fox scored Tuesday with a firstrun “House” (8.7/20 in 18-49, 22.56m) and Wednesday with “Moment of Truth” (7.8/19, 17.64m). Latter dropped by more than 20% week to week but still retained a strong 77% of its 18-49 lead-in from “Idol.”
Fox also led Saturday with “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted,” and it was second on Thursday behind the nonscripted “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (3.1/8 in 18-49, 10.56m) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (3.3/8, 10.07m).
Among the few highlights on the other nets last week was the return of “Lost” to ABC. In its new night Thursday, the drama averaged a 6.7/17 in 18-49 and 16.14 million viewers overall — outrating all 16 of its episodes from 2007 (Daily Variety, Feb. 4).
The Alphabet also won the 10 o’clock hour on Thursday with the series premiere of drama “Eli Stone” (4.0/11, 11.14m), though it lost 2 shares in its second half-hour.
NBC was led by “American Gladiators” on Monday (3.7/10, 8.60m), which has cooled after a hot start, as well as other nonscripted fare such as “The Biggest Loser” on Tuesday (3.3/8, 8.33m) and “The Celebrity Apprentice” on Thursday (3.2/8, 7.82m). “Loser” and Wednesday’s “Deal or No Deal” (2.3/6, 9.68m for a repeat) were the best performers opposite Fox’s “Idol.”
CBS had one of its lowest-rated in-season weeks ever, with top scores coming from repeats “Two and a Half Men” (3.4/9, 9.60m), “CSI” (2.7/7, 11.69m) and “How I Met Your Mother” (2.7/7, 7.33m). Net welcomes back “Survivor” this week, while the thrice-weekly “Big Brother” joins the sked next week for its first in-season edition.
CW, led by “Friday Night Smackdown” (1.4/4, 4.67m) and “One Tree Hill” (1.3/3, 2.79m), was pleased that about 1 million first-time viewers sampled “Gossip Girl” on its new night Monday. Net’s Thursday lineup of “Smallville” (1.6/4, 3.81m) and “Supernatural” (1.3/3, 2.95m) also looked good in their return.
MyNetworkTV had its second strongest week to date among adults 18-49 (0.5/1) and total viewers (1.33m). Monday’s “Harlem Globetrotters: A New Generation” (0.9/2. 2.40m) delivered the third-largest aud — and some of the best male demos — for any of its programs.
The most-watched program on cable for the week, meanwhile, was CNN’s coverage of the Democratic presidential debate on Thursday, which averaged 8.32 million viewers. That helped CNN move up to No. 3 among all cable nets in primetime for the week (2.30 million), finshing ahead of Fox News Channel (1.93 million).
USA was the top cable net in both 18-49 and total viewers, led in the demo by “WWE Raw” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 5.73m from 9 to 11) and dramas “Psych” (1.4/4, 4.34m) and “Monk” (1.3/4, 5.45m).
Disney Channel saw a good start Friday for its “Phineas and Ferb,” whose 3.99 million viewers made it the No. 2 animated-series preem in its history (behind “The Replacements” bow in 2006). Net notes that no animated series premiere on cable has ever drawn as many tweens 9-14 (1.6 million).