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TV Column
Posted at 06:36 PM ET, 12/21/2011

Most-watched TV of 2011: Football, football, more football, and ‘NCIS’


Aaron Rodgers after Super Bowl XLV. (Matt Slocum - AP)
Do you know what Americans most loved to watch on TV in 2011?

Football.

Do you know what else Americans loved to watch in 2011?

The Other Football. — a.k.a. singing and dancing competitions. Specifically “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars.”

Do you know what Americans loved to watch in 2011 when they finally felt the need to take a break from Football and The Other Football?

“NCIS.”

Nielsen, the company that sets in TV industry standard for determining how many people watch every show on television — and what each show’s audience profile is — on Wednesday issued its Top-10 factoids lists for 2011.

In case you were wondering why Fox, CBS and NBC agreed to cough up an average of $3.1 billion a year in rights fees under a new nine-year deal with the NFL, and why ESPN agreed to pay $1.9 billion per season, take a look at the Top-10 Single Telecasts for 2011.

All but one is a football program.

The most watched telecast of this year — like the year before that and the year before that — was the Super Bowl. This year: Fox’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLV.

Broadcast networks must struggle with the diminishing audiences for aging franchises (a key exception maybe being “American Idol,” which got a face lift with the departure of Simon Cowell and gained viewers in its 10th season). But the aged Super Bowl — XLV does stand for “45” — copped the biggest audience in TV history, averaging more than 111 million viewers.

These days, the only non-football telecast that makes the Top-10 list is the annual Academy Awards orgy of trophy dispensing which, in itself, is also a sort of sporting event: Movie stars competing for trophies — and don’t tell me you didn’t participate in an Oscar pool!

Anyway, this year’s Academy Awards squeaked into the list at No. 9, with nearly 38 million viewers watching on — as Nielsen reported — Fox.

Except that the show aired on ABC, as it has for many, many years.

It’s such flights of Nielsen whimsy that do so much to keep the red corpuscles of network executives flowing freely when they’re preparing to pitch ad-rate increases to advertisers. One quick phone call to Nielsen cleared up the matter, and the Top-10 list was re-issued later Wednesday with the natural order of things restored, and the Oscars airing on ABC.

At No. 10: the Super Bowl pre-game show, with its average of more than 35 million viewers.

After that, ranking Nos. 11-19 — another sea of football telecasts, plus one of those Other Football telecasts: the season finale of “American Idol” last May, which averaged more than 29 million viewers.

And tied at No. 20: The Most Watched Single Telecast of 2011 That Did Not Involve Competition of Any Kind

(drum roll...)

The season debut of CBS’s “Two and a Half Men,” in which Charlie Sheen and his character, Charlie Harper, were both bumped off.

The episode averaged 28.743 million viewers.

Meanwhile, Nielsen’s list of Top-10 Primetime TV Programs goes like this:

●The Other Football (“American Idol” Wednesday, followed by “American Idol” Thursday)

●Football

●The Other Football (“Dancing With the Stars,” and “Dancing With the Stars” results show)

●Football

●”NCIS”

●Football

●Football

●”NCIS: Los Angeles”

By  |  06:36 PM ET, 12/21/2011

 
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