In the penultimate week of the Nielsen year, football and holiday fare ruled the ratings roost.
NFL Network, behind its last pair of 2008 primetime games, won the weekly race for the first time in its history with a 2.3 household ratings average from Dec. 15 through Dec. 21, according to a Disney ESPN Cable Networks analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.
The pro football league’s in-house service was lifted by its presentation of the Dec. 20 Dallas Cowboys-Baltimore Ravens game, which at a 9.22 was the highest-rated and second-most-watched show of the week with 5.76 million viewers, as well as the Dec. 18 contest between the Indianapolis Colts and Jacksonville Jaguars, which averaged a 6.58 rating. The games ranked first and third among NFL Network telecasts this season. Adding in post- and pre-game coverage and NFL Network claimed five of the top 11 highest-rated shows of the week.
ESPN, led by the week's top performer, the Dec. 15 Monday Night Football match-up between the Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns that drew 9.88 million watchers, was tied with USA Network, fueled by WWE action the same night , for second in the span with a 2.2 household average
Lifetime Television’s holiday stunting, boosted in particular by the 4.73 million who tuned in Undercover Christmas on Dec. 21, pushed the women’s-targeted service into a tied with Fox News Channel for fourth for the week, both at a 1.7 average. That marked the 19th time in the past 20 weeks (excluding the Thanksgiving session) in which the cable news leader placed in cable’s top 5 in primetime.
Tween- and kids-targeted Disney Channel and holiday programming proponents ABC Family and Hallmark Channel were next, each averaging a 1.6 mark, according to Nielsen.
Rounding out the top 10: sister services TNT and TBS, as well as Nick at Nite, all of which finished with a 1.4 average.
For its part, ABC Family, through the first 21 days of its 11th annual "25 Days of Christmas" programming stunt, was on pace for its second-best performance behind only last year among adults 18 to 34 (493,000 on average), adults 18 to 49 (1.11 million) and viewers 12 to 34 (780,000).
According to a network spokeswoman, the appeal of theatricals The Incredibles (3.62 million), Cars (3.55 million) and Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (3.39 million) in the past week have the stunt pacing at record levels among men 18 to 34 and men 18 to 49.