Fox edges out ABC, CBS in demo battle

A trio of NFL primetime games scored big ratings last week, and the net that aired two of them — NBC — racked up a victory in key demos.

The Peacock’s finale of top-rated series “Sunday Night Football” settled for third place in 18-49, but a special Tuesday edition of the franchise (delayed from the previous Sunday by a snowstorm in Philadelphia) finished on top. Nestled in between them in the rankings was ESPN’s “Monday Night Football.”

The week was otherwise filled with repeats and bowl games, until Sunday at least when ABC got a jump on the competish by airing original episodes in its lineup.

Overall for the Dec. 27-Jan. 2 frame, NBC led in adults 18-49 with a 2.9 rating/8 share, and was followed by ESPN (2.5/7), CBS (1.7/5), Fox (1.6/5), ABC (1.5/5) and Univision (1.2/3).

NBC also led in adults 25-54 (3.4/9) and total viewers (8.6 million, to 8.4 million for CBS and a strong 7.8 million for ESPN), marking just the second time in 15 weeks this season that the Eye didn’t carry these categories.

The Peacock’s NFL contest between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles averaged a hearty 8.1 rating/23 share in adults 18-49 and 23.74 million viewers overall to lead the week in all categories and become the top-rated Tuesday telecast on any network this season. It was up 17% in the demo vs. the Sunday game that aired in the penultimate week of last season.

NBC also racked up larger-than-expected numbers on Saturday as its annual New Year’s Day pro hockey game, the NHL Winter Classic, aired in primetime for the first time, due to weather concerns. The matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals led all broadcasters on the night (1.9/5, 4.53m).

Among firstrun entertainment fare last week, ABC looked pretty good Sunday with originals of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” (2.7/7, 9.40m) and “Desperate Housewives” (3.8/9, 12.19m), while ABC’s annual spec “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” dominated primetime’s final hour of the year on Friday (2.8/11, 9.24m).

ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” finale between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons averaged a 7.1/20 in 18-49 and a season-high 19.14 million viewers overall. The net also scored throughout the week with primetime college bowl games, led by Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl (3.3/9, 10.82m for Oklahoma-Connecticut), Thursday’s Music City Bowl (2.2/6, 7.11 for North Carolina-Tennessee) and Friday’s Chick-fil-A Bowl (2.1/8, 7.49m for Florida State-South Carolina).

Also of note in cable, Oprah Winfrey’s OWN launched Saturday to solid ratings, with its 1.02 million viewers overall repping a huge gain over the 252,000 that former net Discovery Health drew in 2010; gains were also considerable in demos like adults 18-49 (399,000 vs. 111,000) and 25-54 (507,000 vs. 119,000).

And strong series performances included History’s “American Pickers” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 4.72m), TLC’s “My Strange Addiction” (1.1/3, 2.84m) and History’s “Ax Men,” which hit all-time highs on Sunday (1.4/4, 3.41m) and was cable’s No. 1 program on the night in all key male demos.

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