Football’s a hit for ESPN

Patriots-Saints matchup draws record ratings

The highest-rated NFL season in years continued Monday night with near-record numbers for ESPN’s matchup between the New England Patriots and undefeated New Orleans Saints.

Nielsen estimates that an average aud of 21.4 million tuned in to “Monday Night Football” this week, just a bit below the 21.8 million that watched the Oct. 5 game between the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers. The franchise now accounts for the 12 most-watched cable programs of 2009.

The previous high for “MNF” on ESPN was the 18.61 million for last year’s game between Dallas and Philadelphia.

It was the top program of the night in virtually all categories, including a boffo 8.5 rating/21 share in adults 18-49.

The big start to the week for cable continued Tuesday when FX’s “Sons of Anarchy” wrapped its season with impressive numbers (2.3/7 in 18-49, 4.33m).

In the 10 o’clock hour, the motorcycle-gang drama roughly doubled the demo delivery of ABC’s struggling “The Forgotten” (1.2/3, 5.48m). It also won its hour in men 18-49 (2.9/9) and men 18-34 (3.2/11), besting both NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and CBS’ “Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.”

Top broadcast program in demos on an atypical Tuesday was “Loser” (3.7/10 in 18-49, 10.00m), which aired from 9 to 11 p.m. due to President Obama’s address to the nation. “Victoria’s Secret” ranked second (2.9/8, 8.01m).

ABC’s season premiere of the revamped “Scrubs” averaged similar so-so numbers with original episodes at both 9 p.m. (2.0/5, 4.63m) and 9:30 (2.0/5, 4.43m).

Meanwhile, the Obama speech — his seventh primetime appearance this year — averaged 40.77 million viewers on 10 networks, according to Nielsen. Viewership was up 27% from Obama’s appearance before a joint session of Congress on Sept. 9.

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