The Washington Redskins' 24-10 victory over the Arizona Cardinals dominated the local television ratings Sunday night against competition from Major League Baseball's two riveting league championship series games. At the same time, the 4-1 Redskins' season ratings are about 12 percent higher than a year ago.
Sunday's game was broadcast nationally on ESPN, with Channel 7 (free television) picking up the simulcast of the cable telecast as mandated by NFL rules. On Channel 7, the game did a 21.7 overnight rating and had a 32 share of the audience; on ESPN the numbers were 8.4 locally with a 12 share.
Each local rating point represents 19,561 homes, meaning that more than 570,000 households were tuned in to the game in the Washington market. The share represents the percentage of viewers among televisions that are turned on.
Fox's American League Championship Series game between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, also aired in about the same time slot as the football game, drew a 7.0 overnight rating and a 10 share in the local market. The Yankees won, 9-2, but it was a tense, 3-2 affair through eight innings.
NBC's National League Championship Series game between the New York Mets and Atlanta Braves started at 4 p.m. but went 15 innings and almost six hours, ending at about halftime of the Redskins-Cardinals game. That game, won by the Mets, 4-3, got a 12.5 overnight rating and a 19 share locally.
Redskins ratings for the season have been soaring. Through the first four games, all on Fox-owned Channel 5, the team has averaged a 28.5 rating (557,488 households) and a 52 share. After five games in '98, all of them losses, the Redskins averaged a 25.2 local rating and a 49 share. The Redskins have increased the rating by 12 percent and the share by 6 percent.
The season opener, a 41-35 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys, drew the largest rating of the season, a 33.3 with a 67 share. That was the team's highest opening-day rating since the '94 season, when the team had a 30.6 rating in a 28-7 loss to Seattle in Coach Norv Turner's first season as head coach.
The Redskins drew a 29 and 58 share against the New York Giants Sept. 19, a 25.3 and 49 share against the New York Jets Sept. 26 and a 31.6 and 54 share against Carolina Oct. 3.
"It's a testament to the greatest fans in the world," said Redskins President Steve Baldacci, "and the energy and the enthusiasm of the Washington Redskins."
Brad Dancer, director of research for Channel 5, attributed the rising numbers to several factors, most obviously the team winning four of its first five games.
"You had the Dallas game leading it off, and that was exciting," Dancer said. "All of the games have been good games. And there's also been a lot of hoopla. That's a real new team, a new owner and a new quarterback that people are really getting excited about. That creates interest. And after a long time, they're finally winning. That never hurts."
The Ratings Game
Local Overnight Ratings
Redskins Game ALCS NLCS
WJLA-7 ESPN WTTG-5 WRC-4
Rating* 21.7 8.4 7.01 2.5
National Overnight Ratings
Rating* 9.1 13.2
Share** 14.0 22.0
1998 1999 (First four games)
Rating* 25.2 28.5
Share** 49.0 52.0
* Each rating point equals 19,000 households
** Percentage of televisions in use