- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2005

The ladies of Wisteria Lane have trumped the lords of the gridiron.

WJLA-TV (Channel 7) chose “Desperate Housewives” and its Sunday night lineup over the Washington Redskins this week for the first time, moving the matchup between the Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles to WDCA-TV (Channel 20).

In October 2004, WJLA aired the Redskins instead of its Sunday night lineup, including the second episode of “Desperate Housewives,” and faced a backlash by Wisteria Lane fans so strong that it overloaded the station’s phone system. It was not a mistake the station was about to repeat.

Ratings for the “Desperate Housewives” episode that was bumped last year, which was delayed until after midnight, fell to 166,000 households. The previous week, the series premiere drew 415,000 households.

Game decisions must be made months in advance. Last year, the decision was made before “Desperate Housewives” was a hit.

“We have a wildly successful prime-time lineup now,” said WJLA spokeswoman Kathy McGriff. “We want to continue to make that available to our audience while they still have the ability — through cable or satellite — to access the Redskins game.”

The game will air at 8:30 p.m. on ESPN and WDCA, which is happy to have the team.

“The Redskins are the biggest sports story in this town, a big news story. There are many loyal fans of the Redskins, and they usually generate some of the best ratings in the market from week to week,” said WDCA General Manager Duffy Dyer. “We saw it as an opportunity to help grow the visibility of UPN 20, and it made a lot of sense to us.”

About 565,000 households watched Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants on WTTG-TV (Channel 5).

In comparison, the WJLA Sunday night lineup was watched in an average of 249,000 homes. “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” on WJLA was seen in 210,000 households. A “Desperate Housewives” rerun aired in 242,000 homes, and “Grey’s Anatomy” was on in 294,000 homes in the Washington area.

When ESPN airs a game, local stations in each team’s hometown also must be given an opportunity to buy the broadcasting rights.

WJLA jumped at the chance last year, before they knew “Desperate Housewives” would be a hit, but they decided not to this year.

“This arrangement makes both options available in this market,” Ms. McGriff said. “If we elected to carry the Redskins, our dedicated audience of ‘Desperate Housewives’ watchers, ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ watchers and ‘Extreme Makeover’ audiences would be moved off to the wee hours of the morning.”

This week’s ESPN game is the only Sunday night game for the Redskins this season.

WJLA hasn’t decided what it will do next year if the situation arises again, Ms. McGriff said.

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