Britney Spears, football boost ABC to rare ratings win. Thursday's game, and Britney's tailgate party, are the week's top two shows

By Gary Susman
Updated September 10, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

Who’d have thought one of the biggest TV events of the summer would be Britney Spears hanging out at the Mall? The National Mall, that is, in Washington, D.C., where Spears helped kick off football season last Thursday by performing at a tailgate party for 100,000 guests. Enough people watched the concert on TV, then stuck around for the Redskins-Jets game that followed, to earn ABC a rare ratings touchdown, as those were the two most-watched shows of the week. According to Nielsen, the game drew 19.2 million viewers, the biggest TV audience since the ”American Idol” finale in May, while the pregame show drew 17.3 million.

ABC tied NBC for first place among the coveted 18-to-49 demographic, though ”Law & Order” reruns helped NBC finish the week with the most viewers overall, an average of 8.3 million. In overall numbers, ABC was locked in a virtual tie with CBS at around 7.8 million viewers.

Football was good for Fox, too. Sunday’s post-game show, following the Falcons-Cowboys matchup, aired in primetime on the East Coast, drawing 12.3 million viewers and coming in at No. 6 for the week. The network finished fourth for the week, averaging 6.3 million viewers. UPN drew 3 million, edging out the WB (2.9 million).