SBJ/Feb. 14-20, 2011/Opinion

Don't underplay these facts

How we see it

One final thought on a story that got plenty of coverage but whose main point may have been lost: the power of NFL TV programming.

The ratings success stories were reported week after week, but after a while, it’s easy to gloss over the data. Here are the facts:

• NFL action was the top-rated prime-time program on broadcast TV through the end of 2010. NFL games account for 18 of the 20 most-viewed broadcast TV programs of the current season, which started Sept. 20 (Fox’s post-Super Bowl “Glee” and the “American Idol” season premiere Jan. 19 hold the other two slots). That’s powerful.

• NBC’s prime-time “Sunday Night Football” averaged nearly 22 million viewers, Fox averaged 20 million and CBS nearly 19 million. A top show outside of “Idol” or “Dancing With The Stars” may average anywhere from 10 million to 14 million viewers. That’s quite a spread.

• ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” registered 15 of the top 20 most-viewed cable programs since the start of the TV season. Consistent, top-performing programs.

• Top all that off with the astounding record of 111 million viewers who watched Super Bowl XLV on Fox.

No more ho-hum reaction! Think back to the theme of sports ratings in the early to mid-2000s, when the sky was falling, viewers were flocking away, sports were losing cachet, rights fees were overinflated and reality television was clearly the genre for the next generation.

Still think that’s the case? No way. Live sports programming is strong, and the NFL is far and away the king.

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