A Power City, Powerless Before the Redskins

By Sudarsan Raghavan and John Maynard
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, January 14, 2006

Washington likes to think of itself as a unique center of cosmopolitan life, a wonky place consumed with doing the world's business, a city where serious and diverse minds from around the globe hammer out matters of great import.

Perhaps Washington should take another look at itself -- if it can tear itself away from the tube.

You, there, in the seat of power, check out this revealing little statistic: The 20 most-watched programs on television in the past four months in the Washington area are about football. Football . Almost all Redskins, of course.

Of all the cable channels and all the networks and all the talk shows and comedies and dramas, Washington is watching the Redskins. Redskins vs. Eagles. Redskins vs. Cowboys. Redskins vs. Buccaneers. Pregame shows, postgame shows. With all the "CSI" spinoffs, you would think the odds would land at least one in the top 20 -- but, no.

It seems Washington, hub of political activism and world diplomacy, is more like Pittsburgh and Philly than it thinks -- their top shows are also football.

But San Francisco and Seattle -- whom the Redskins play in today's playoff game -- might be more like Washington than Washington is. In Seattle, 11 of the top 19 programs were National Football League-related, according to an NFL analysis of Nielsen ratings, and in San Francisco, where the 49ers finished a dreadful 4-12, nine of the top 18 shows were.

Football programming has always done well in this region, but with the Redskins making the playoffs for the first time since 1999, they are dominating television.

"The resurgence of the team, led by head coach Joe Gibbs, has garnered even more attention from these fans, who are tuning in greater numbers each week," said Phil Guarascio, the NFL's lead executive in charge of marketing and sales. "The Redskins bring together the Washington, D.C., community unlike any other event. There are few things that people in Washington agree about, but they all seem to share an insatiable appetite for the Redskins."

Last week, slightly more than 850,000 Washington households tuned into the wild-card game vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In other words, 65 percent of all televisions in use in the nation's eighth-largest TV market last week were tuned to the Redskins.

"The Redskins broadcasts still remain the primary way to reach as many people in the market in one fell swoop," said Duffy Dyer, general manager of Fox-owned WTTG-TV, which broadcast most of the Redskins games this year.

Corporate lobbyist Booth Jameson, 39, has spent every weekend watching the Redskins in his Capitol Hill home -- about triple the time he spends watching political talk shows.

Since the team has been winning, his world has expanded considerably beyond the political circles he usually traverses.

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