Division Series Scores for ESPN

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Covering Major League Baseball’s Division Series was very, very good for ESPN and ESPN2, leading to record-setting ratings for the networks.

Bolstered by eight Division Series contests, ESPN scored its most-viewed week ever from Oct. 3 through Oct. 9 on a total-day basis, averaging 1.46 million households, surpassing the 1.37 million that tuned in during the week of Sept. 29 through Oct. 5, 2003, according to network executives.

In primetime, ESPN, which also benefited from National Football League and college-football action, posted a 3.8 household rating, its third-best week ever. That translated into 3.41 million households, the tops for the total sports network in that measurement.

As for ESPN2, its coverage of the Chicago White Sox’s dethroning of the defending champion Boston Red Sox on Oct. 7 pitched a 4.1 rating and captured some 3.63 million households, making Game Three of that American League Division Series the network’s highest-rated and most-viewed telecast ever.

All told, ESPN’s eight Division Series telecasts — led by the 6.0 household rating for Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim victory over the New York Yankees on Oct. 7, in the third game of that American League confrontation — were viewed in an average of 3.47 million households, up 12% from 3.09 million in 2004 and the net’s strongest performance with baseball to date. The 3.8 rating average, which also included a 3.9 mark on Oct. 9 for the nearly six-hour, 18-inning game in which the Houston Astros eliminated the Atlanta Braves in their National League Division Series, was up 9% from last season’s 3.5 playoff performance.

ESPN2’s two Division Series telecasts averaged a 3.2 rating, ahead 39% from the prior year. They also attracted an unprecedented 2.86 million households, a 40% advance over last year’s 2.04 million average.

ESPN’s 3.8 primetime play, which also featured a 6.7 household rating for the NFL game between the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cincinnati Bengals and a 4.9 for the college contest between Penn State and Ohio State the night before (the network’s second-best numbers with that sport), easily exceeded all other comers that week.

“We always do well at this time of year,” said an ESPN spokesman. “The MLB playoffs, college football and the NFL make for a strong combination.”

According to a Disney ABC Cable Networks Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research data, Disney Channel was second in the period with a 2.3 household primetime average, followed by USA, which was bolstered by the return of World Wrestling Entertainment’s Monday Night Raw, with a 2.2. Year-to-date leader TNT was fourth with a 2.0, while Lifetime Television was fifth with a 1.8.

Rounding out the top 10: Nick at Nite’s 16; Cartoon Network and Fox News Channel, both with a 1.5; TBS at a 1.3; and Spike TV with a 1.1.

Measured on a total-programming-day basis, perennial leader Nickelodeon edged ESPN by a 1.7 to a 1.6, according to the Disney analysis of Nielsen data. Nick at Nite was third with a 1.3, followed by a 1.1 apiece for Disney Channel and TNT.

Disney Channel’s Halloweentown High and Lifetime’s Haunting Sarah were the highest-rated movies of the week. The third installment of the third season of FX’s plastic surgeon series Nip/Tuck recorded the highest series performance of the week: a 3.5 on Oct. 4.

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