ABC, CBS Sunday Series Slide Opposite Big Sports Action

Sunday Night Football ratings
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

NBC's football easily beat Fox's baseball

NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” matchup towered over baseball and everything else in primetime Sunday, a night that saw declining same-night numbers for the series on ABC and CBS.

Preliminary numbers weren’t available for AMC’s season premiere of “The Walking Dead,” but it only added to the crowded night. The zombie drama is expected to stand as easily Sunday’s No. 1 entertainment series in key demos.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, the “Sunday Night Football” contest between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys averaged a 7.3 rating/18 share in adults 18-49 and 19.6 million viewers overall on NBC’s stations from 8:30 to 11 p.m., with these numbers expected to rise by 10% or more in the nationals once the full duration of the game and West Coast viewing is included.

The game did a 13.5 household rating/22 share in the metered-market overnights, including a 35.5/52 in Dallas and a 34.1/52 in Washington, DC. It easily beat Fox’s coverage of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between Boston and Detroit, which did a 6.0/10 in the overnights. In the fast nationals, baseball did a 2.4/6 in 18-49 and 8.3 million viewers overall.

The NFL has scheduled more aggressively opposite baseball’s postseason this year, perhaps as payback for Major League Baseball’s unwillingness to change the game time for a Thursday night Baltimore Orioles game in early September; as a result, the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens had to open the season on the road instead of getting to celebrate in front of the hometown fans on opening night.

Sunday night was the first time in 16 years that the NFL has scheduled the Cowboys — the league’s most popular team — opposite a baseball League Championship Series. And sure enough, the football game was the highest-rated opposite an LCS since Dallas faced Washington on “Monday Night Football” in 1997.

If the American League Championship Series goes to seven games, the deciding game on Fox will go up against the most anticipated regular-season game of the NFL season: Peyton Manning’s return to Indianapolis on “Sunday Night Football.”

Elsewhere Sunday, CBS’ lineup of “60 Minutes” (1.5/5 in 18-49, 10.6 million viewers overall), “The Amazing Race” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 8.1 million viewers overall), “The Good Wife” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 8.4 million viewers overall) and “The Mentalist” (1.3/3 in 18-49, 9.4 million viewers overall) were all down from last week, when the lineup was boosted by a huge football lead-in.

CBS and ABC tied in 18-49 for the night, with the Eye winning between the two with “60 Minutes” and “The Mentalist.”

ABC prevailed from 8 to 10 p.m., even though “Once Upon a Time” (2.3/6 in 18-49, 7.4 million viewers overall) and “Revenge” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 6.0 million viewers overall) continue to fall. It’s quite possible that these shows, as well as the CBS entertainment series, will see even larger DVR playback than usual given the big live sports action as well as the “Walking Dead” premiere.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: NBC, 6.0/16; Fox, 3.6/9; ABC and CBS, 1.5/4.

In total viewers: NBC, 16.0 million; Fox, 11.4 million; CBS, 9.1 million; ABC, 5.4 million.

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