The Ratings Crown

Fox now sports its first ever season-long broadcast ratings crown, but some not-so-sporting complaints remain from its competitors.

Fox Broadcasting won the season with a 4.1 rating in the Nielsen 18 to 49 ratings race, just a smidge over CBS' 4.0. ABC was a bit farther back at 3.7, showing a big rise of 12 percent over last year. NBC sank some 19 percent to arrive at an unexpected 3.5.

Some press reports, such as a Reuters story, suggest the Fox had a stunning comeback. While the word 'comeback' does make sense, 'stunning' may not.

For the last few years, Fox has started off the season in sluggish fashion - all because of its Major League Baseball playoff programming which wreaks havoc with scheduling and promoting its regular entertainment programming.

Then January rolls around and Fox typically heats up. For the last several years, its big "American Idol" franchise debuts in January as a part of a regular programming plan. Fox also aired the Super Bowl - a big ratings event for any network.



For CBS' part, it won in total viewers and the demographic that never seems to get respect -- adults 25 to 54 ratings. CBS also leads in the usual department. CBS says if you take over Fox's Super Bowl and baseball coverage, they'd win in 18 to 49.

This is common grouse -- and a valid one. Advertisers don't typically buy sports in the upfront advertising market as they do with entertainment programming. Many sports advertisers are not general interest primetime advertisers.

Peter Liguori, president of entertainment for Fox, said correctly that there shouldn't be an asterisk given to Fox since the Super Bowl has always been counted that way.

It's not just CBS. In recent years, ABC also noted that ratings should be looked at sans-Super Bowl for a better understanding of how the network business performed.

In that regard, we hope ABC will leave out the Super Bowl's ratings for this upcoming season. It airs the big game next year. Surely, like this season, it'll show how its entertainment programming has been the most important driver of its success.

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