Football powers rare ABC ratings victory. NFL playoffs and college bowl games give the network the edge in weekly ratings race

By Gary Susman
Updated January 06, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST

It’s rare for ABC to win the weekly Nielsen ratings race, even rarer for the Alphabet network to own five of the top six slots on Nielsen’s chart of most-watched primetime shows. But that’s what happened during New Year’s week, and ABC has the gridiron gods to thank. All five of those shows were football-related; the lone top-five show airing on another network (CBS) was also a pigskin program. The week’s most watched primetime program was Saturday’s NFL pregame show on ABC, drawing 25.1 million viewers, followed by the Dallas-Carolina playoff game, college football’s Sugar Bowl, CBS’ AFC wildcard playoff post-game show on Sunday, the Rose Bowl post-game show, and the Sugar Bowl pregame show. ABC also scored touchdowns with the Orange Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl, at Nos. 12 and 13 on the list.

Overall, ABC averaged 13.9 million viewers for the week, easily outdistancing all the other networks for its first weekly victory since last March’s Academy Awards broadcast. CBS, whose top draws included an episode of ”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” (the week’s top scripted show, at No. 7) and a ”60 Minutes” episode that rode the AFC playoff contest’s coattails to No. 8, finished second for the week, averaging 10.7 million. NBC was a distant third with 9 million, followed by Fox (6.3 million), the WB (3 million), and UPN (2.8 million).