Bill Bowl Propels ESPN


The "Battle of the Bills" drove ESPN to the top spot in the cable primetime Nielsen Media Research rankings last week.

Driven by the 9.6 household rating it garnered for the Nov. 16 National Football League contest pitting the Dallas Cowboys, coached by Bill Parcells, and the New England Patriots, led by Parcells’ defensive protégé, Bill Belichick, ESPN averaged a 2.6 last week.

The 12-0 Pats' triumph over "America's Team" tackled the fifth-highest audience in basic-cable history, according to ESPN, attracting some 8.45 million homes and more than 11.7 million viewers. It was the third-largest audience ever for ESPN, trailing the 8.93 million homes that tuned in the Detroit-Miami NFL game on Christmas Day 1994 and the Buffalo-San Francisco gridiron affair on Dec. 3, 1995 (8.64 million).

ESPN finished 0.7 points ahead of the 1.9 racked up by second-place Nickelodeon, according to an ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen data. USA Network was third during the period, extending from Nov. 10-16, while Turner Network Television, Disney Channel and Cartoon Network each scored a 1.6.

Rounding out the top 10: Lifetime Television with a 1.5; a 1.4 for TBS Superstation, which had the week’s top theatrical as the Nov. 16 airing of timeless classic The Wizard of Oz conjured a 3.4 mark; Fox News Channel with a 1.2; and The Learning Channel with a 1.1.