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Football and Math, a Winning Formula for CBS

By Lisa de Moraes
Wednesday, January 26, 2005; Page C07

CBS is still out in front -- Zzzz -- but struggling Fox catapulted to second place in last week's ratings race. "American Idol" -- it's baaaack.

Here's a look at the week's ups and downs:

The debut of "Numb3rs," with Rob Morrow, was boosted by football. (Monty Brinton -- CBS)


AFC Championship. The most watched broadcast of the season to date was Sunday's game on CBS, seen by 44 million, in which last February's Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots, beat the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"Numb3rs." Lucky CBS midseason series got a preview broadcast right after that football game, and while it lost almost half the game's audience -- 19 million viewers, in fact -- the remaining 25 mil were enough to make it the season's most watched new-series unveiling; until Sunday, "Desperate Housewives" had that distinction, with an opening audience of 21.6 million.

"Desperate Housewives." Speaking of "Desperate Housewives," though it was up against the season's biggest broadcast blah blah Steelers/Patriots, ABC's freshman hit copped its second largest audience ever -- 26 million viewers.

"Dateline." Sunday's "Dateline" tribute to NBC's long-running late-night host Johnny Carson averaged more than 11 million viewers, the second largest Sunday "Dateline" audience this season, trailing only the Jan. 2 edition, which had focused on the tsunami and averaged 12.8 million.

"American Idol." For one brief shining moment -- five days, to be exact -- Tuesday's "American Idol" fourth-edition debut held the season's most watched title, with nearly 34 million viewers. (Then came Sunday's blah blah Steelers/Patriots.) On Wednesday, however, ABC's "Lost" took a big bite out of the singing competition's second broadcast of the season, leaving it 3 million viewers lighter than its first Wednesday telecast last season.

"Lost." And, speaking of "Lost," the ABC freshman hit logged its third largest audience -- nearly 20 million viewers -- in spite of "Idol's" hefty crowd of nearly 27 million.

"Boston Legal." This ABC legal drama hit a series high Sunday; in fact, for the past three Sundays, the freshman series has pulled in its three biggest audiences to date. Not coincidentally, Candice Bergen joined the cast three weeks ago.

"Everybody Loves Raymond." Last week CBS's lame-duck sitcom clocked 19.2 million viewers, its largest audience this season.

"Town Haul." TLC's latest take on the makeover series, in which that dippy blond decorator from "Trading Spaces" makes over a whole town, got off to a good start Saturday with an average of 2.1 million viewers, more than doubling TLC's prior-four-week average in the time slot and building on its "Trading Spaces" lead-in.

"Fresh Prince." BET's six-episode marathon rerun of this old NBC sitcom nailed an average of 1.7 million viewers Saturday. The previous four weeks, BET averaged a measly 529,000 viewers in the same block of time.

FNC Thursday. Fox News Channel was network of choice for those keen on following the presidential inauguration into the night. FNC averaged 2.4 million viewers Thursday night, nearly a million viewers more than it had clocked in presidential inauguration prime time 2001. CNN scored 1.4 million viewers -- down by about 230,000 viewers -- and MSNBC came in with 383,000 -- 47 percent shy of 2001's prime time 722,000.


"The Osbournes." Ozzy's reality series returned last week on Monday for what MTV is calling the second half of its third season (actually the network is calling it Season 3B, according to Nielsen; FYI, Season 3A was one year ago). Anyway, the Season 3B debut of "The Osbournes" averaged a lousy 1.6 million viewers. This is dismal, considering that Season 3A -- did we mention it was on a year ago? -- had averaged 2.8 million viewers. Let's not forget that Season 2 had averaged 3.6 million, which had looked pretty bad at the time, given that Season 1 had bagged 5.3 million.

"Sports Illustrated: Model Search." Ratings on NBC's FCC-proof breasts-and-bottoms reality series plunged to a measly 3.9 million viewers last week opposite "American Idol." The previous Wednesday, "SI:MS" clocked 6 million viewers and its debut one week earlier had averaged nearly 7 million.

The week's 10 most watched programs, in order, were: CBS's broadcast of the AFC championship game, Fox's Tuesday "American Idol" season debut, Fox's Wednesday "American Idol," ABC's "Desperate Housewives," CBS's "Numb3rs," CBS's "CSI: Miami," ABC's "Lost," CBS's "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS's "CSI" and NBC's "ER."

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