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NBC scores with Sunday football

ESPN, Fox also reap pigskin reward

The power of the pigskin was evident in the primetime ratings race last week as a pair of opening-weekend NFL contests dominated the frame and led NBC to an easy victory.

As pro football kicked off, the Peacock logged the highest-rated week for any network since May. In addition, Fox got a boost from late-afternoon pro football action spilling into primetime on Sunday, while ESPN moved up in the cable rankings thanks to a pair of primetime college contests.

Overall for the week ended Sunday, preliminary Nielsen estimates had NBC as the top-rated net in adults 18-49 with a 3.0 rating/9 share, followed by CBS and Fox (both 2.0/7) and ABC (1.9/5). The Peacock also scored a rare triumph in total viewers (8.2 million to 6.8 million for runner-up CBS), the Eye’s first setback in eight weeks.

(The network averages were all subject to minor revisions, as processing issues kept Nielsen from issuing final numbers on Tuesday).

Top two programs of the week were the “Sunday Night Football” matchup on NBC between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants (7.6 rating/20 share in adults 18-49, 18.16 million viewers overall) and Thursday’s kickoff special on the Peacock between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints (7.4/22, 17.79m).

The Sunday game came in below last year’s much-hyped Colts-Giants showdown (8.8/22, 22.57m), which featured the matchup of quarterback brothers Peyton and Eli Manning and stands as one of the highest-rated regular-season games in years.

NBC didn’t do a whole lot elsewhere during the week, posting its best numbers Wednesday with firstrun hours “Last Comic Standing” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 6.25m) and “Dateline” (2.4/7, 7.44m).

Fox’s top telecast of the week was its 37-minute NFL postgame show “The OT” on Sunday (4.4/13 in 18-49, 10.10m). It helped boost repeats of the net’s laffers “The Simpsons” (3.1/8, 6.42m) and “Family Guy” (3.1/7, 6.24m), which held up well despite opposing NBC’s football.

Net similarly put up respectable numbers opposite Thursday’s NFL game with the season preems of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (2.5/8, 8.28m) and “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (2.9/8, 8.05m).

CBS was paced by another strong frame for “Big Brother,” which hit summer highs Tuesday (3.3/9, 8.00m). Also, quizshow “Power of 10” won its timeslots on Tuesday (2.3/7, 8.09m) and Wednesday (2.0/6, 7.75m).

ABC remained in fourth but had its strongest week since early June, getting a nice boost Saturday from a NASCAR race (2.5/8 in 18-49, 6.80m) and Sunday from theatrical “Meet the Fockers” (2.8/7 in 18-49, 7.92m).

Also, “Fat March” hit series highs on Monday (1.9/5 in 18-49, 4.87m), and “20/20” kicked off its season a winner on Friday (1.9/6, 6.289m).

MyNetworkTV notched some of its best numbers to date Tuesday with new series “Jail” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 1.85m). Still, it finished behind the struggling CW, which registered an embarrassing 1 share with some of its repeats during the week.

“The Video Music Awards” (3.8/11 in 18-49, 7.08m) carried MTV to the top of the ratings charts among cablers, but the net also drew a sizable lift from Monday’s “The Hills” (2.6/7 in 18-49, 4.43m), which logged a huge 6.2/18 in its core femmes 12-34 demo.

Part one of the two-week summer finale of “The Closer” scored very well for TNT on Monday (2.0/5 in 18-49, 8.17m) — a top-10 cable finisher for the week in 18-49 and the No. 1 cable draw in both adults 25-54 (2.8/7) and total viewers.

ESPN also had a big week thanks to college football action on Labor Day (2.8/8 in 18-49, 6.73m for Florida State-Clemson) and Saturday (1.4/4, 3.72m for LSU-Virginia Tech).

And continuing a big week for sporting events, Spike moved up in the weekly rankings behind Saturday’s UFC title fight (2.7/9, 4.68m), the first such bout on the cabler. It drew more young men on the night than either NASCAR on ABC or college football on ESPN.

Other cable highlights: VH1’s “Pick-Up Artist” surged to season highs on Monday (1.1/3 in 18-49, 1.77m) and drew a 7 share in women 18-34; USA saw more good showings from drama pair of “Psych” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 3.97m) and “Monk” (1.2/4, 4.69m); CMT set a network record Tuesday with the preem of original movie “Dale” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 3.14m), which was the night’s top cable program; and ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights” (0.5/2 in 18-49, 1.60m) hit series highs with its second-season premiere Tuesday, lagging only CBS, NBC and ABC in its timeslot among femmes 12-34 (1.2/4).

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