ABC show a standout on Sunday

Football helped Fox and NBC to strong deliveries on Sunday but ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” appears to be the night’s top-rated program in key demos. TNT, meanwhile, drew a sizable audience for its premiere of the drama “Leverage.”

According to preliminary nationals, Fox won the night thanks to a monster — and lengthy — NFL overrun featuring a matchup between arguably the league’s two most popular teams: the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys. Game, won 20-13 by Pittsburgh, is expected to deliver well above a 10 rating in 18-49 and 25 million viewers for its roughly 40-minute primetime portion. Following postgame coverage, college football’s “BCS Selection Show” averaged roughly a 3.9/10 in 18-49 and 9.6 million viewers overall from 7:54 to 8:30 p.m., and “The Simpsons” clocked in with a 2.8/7 in 18-49 and 6.2 million viewers overall with its special 8:30 p.m. episode. Closing out the night for Fox were repeats of “Family Guy” (3.1/7 in 18-49, 6.5 million viewers overall) and “American Dad” (2.4/5 in 18-49, 5.3 million viewers overall).

ABC started slowly with the special “Ty Pennington: Behind the Scenes” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 5.8 million viewers overall) and a below-average installment of the show Pennington fronts, “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (3.3/8 in 18-49, 10.3 million viewers overall). At 9, “Desperate Housewives” remained hot (5.9/13 in 18-49, 16.0 million viewers overall), winning its hour in most key categories and logging its best 18-34 score since its season premiere (5.3/13). And “Brothers and Sisters” was on the high end at 10 o’clock (3.9/10 in 18-49, 10.7 million viewers overall), perhaps drawing its best averages since its season premiere.

Opposite “Brothers & Sisters,” TNT averaged a sturdy 1.6/4 in 18-49 and 5 million viewers for the commercial-free launch of “Leverage,” a new drama starring Timothy Hutton. The cabler says it’s the best demo delivery for an original TNT series telecast during the traditional television season.

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” matchup between the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins averaged a preliminary 4.5/11 in 18-49 and 11.8 million viewers overall on the net’s affiliates from 8:30 to 11 p.m., with its national scores expected to rise by about 10%. This would make it among the lower-rated of the franchise’s games this fall.

At CBS, “60 Minutes” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 13.8 million viewers overall) was in line with its prior season average on nights when it doesn’t have the national NFL lead-in, and the finale of “The Amazing Race 13″ (3.1/7 in 18-49, 10.6 million viewers overall) was in line with its fall 2007 edition. From 9 to 11, the Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation “Front of the Class” (2.8/7 in 18-49, 11.8 million viewers overall) was above average in the time period for CBS and was up versus the most recent HHOF movies.

CW continues to see improvement over its disastrous early-season Sunday sked, as the combo of “Jericho” (0.4/1 in 18-49, 1.1 million viewers overall) and the 1992 movie “Cutting Edge” (0.6/1 in 18-49, 1.6 million viewers overall) gave the net its best performance on the night this fall.

Meanwhile on Saturday, CBS scored big with the SEC Championship college football game between Florida and Alabama (4-7:30 p.m. ET). Total-viewer estimates weren’t available, but the contest averaged a 10.4 household rating/21 share in Nielsen’s metered-market overnights — the highest-rated regular season college game on CBS since 1989 (USC-Notre Dame). It’s also the highest-rated non-bowl game on any network in two years (Ohio State-Michigan on ABC in November 2006).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 4.6/11; ABC, 3.7/9; NBC, 3.6/9; CBS, 2.8/7; Univision, 1.3/3; CW, 0.5/1.

In total viewers: CBS, 12.0 million; Fox, 11.2 million; ABC, 10.7 million; NBC, 9.8 million; Univision, 3.4 million; CW, 1.4 million.

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