- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

The NFL’s broadcast partners said television ratings for football were among the best in history, with viewership increased on every network.

Fox reported its highest viewership since 1995, with an average of 16.6 million people tuning in on Sunday afternoons, while CBS reported an average of 15.4 million viewers, up 2 percent from 2005.

Meanwhile, NBC’s new “Sunday Night Football” games lured an average of 17.5 million viewers, or 1.2 million more than comparable “Monday Night Football” games on ABC last year.

ESPN, which took over the “Monday Night Football” broadcasts this year, reported an average of 12.3 million viewers, or 38 percent more than “Sunday Night Football” games on ESPN in 2005.

Some observers had predicted ratings for Fox and CBS would drop after NBC received permission to select the top matchups for its broadcasts in the second half of the season. But it appeared to have no ill effect.

Fox said its late afternoon games, which usually feature NFC games of national interest, lured a 13.8 Nielsen rating and an average of 21.8 million viewers, giving them a larger audience than any prime-time show this fall including “Desperate Housewives” and “Dancing with the Stars.”

The NFL reported that football topped local ratings 80 percent of the time this year, breaking a record set in 2003. The Pittsburgh Steelers had the highest local ratings of any NFL team, scoring a 42.8 local rating, which represents two-thirds of all the television households in the Pittsburgh area. The Washington Redskins averaged a 24.9 local rating, representing 49 percent of all television households in the region.

The only broadcaster still struggling to gain viewers is the league-owned NFL Network, which began showing games on Thursday and Saturday nights this season. The cable network, which still is not available in many homes across the country, averaged just more than 3 million viewers for its games.

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