- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Each week, I get an e-mail from ESPN telling me what the ratings were for Monday Night Football. The headlines are always similar: “Third-most watched cable broadcast of all time” … “Fifth-most viewers in cable television history.”

Finally, they reached the top.

Monday night’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants was, in fact, the most-watched program in cable television history, luring a 12.8 rating, or 11.8 million homes, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The previous record for a cable program was CNN’s 1992 debate between then-Vice President Al Gore and independent candidate Ross Perot on the issue of NAFTA. Monday Night Football topped that, and even topped CNN’s breaking news coverage of the start of the Gulf War in 1991.

For anyone to be breaking television viewership records in this day and age is impressive. The number of channels is increasing all the time, and there’s also the Internet to compete against. Some observers may argue that more people are tuning in to watch Tony Kornheiser. There may be a kernel of truth to that, but I think ESPN has simply had the benefit of some very solid matchups and very exciting games so far. And football, in general, seems to be more popular than ever, as Fox and NBC both are reporting very high ratings.

Monday Night Football will never top the viewership it once enjoyed on ABC; it’s unfair to compare cable to network broadcasts. But it’s possible the program will keep topping itself on ESPN. Consider these upcoming games with potential playoff implications that are scheduled for Monday nights: Nov. 20, Giants at Jaguars; Dec. 4, Panthers at Eagles; Dec. 11, Bears at Rams; Dec. 18, Bengals at Colts.

At least one of those games will move Al, Ross and NAFTA even further down the list.

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