The season finale of Monday Night Football and a blitz of college football bowl games lifted ESPN to a blowout weekly ratings win heading into the New Year.
With ESPN football telecasts tackling seven of the top 10 most watched shows of the week, the sports network averaged a basic cable network-best 6.3 million viewers for the week of Dec. 28., 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010, nearly doubling the 3.3 million viewers generated by 2009's overall basic cable ratings leader USA Network.
Disney Channel finished third with 2.6 million viewers, followed by TNT (2.3 million) and A&E (1.8 million). Nick-At-Nite (1.6 million); TBS (1.5 million); ABC Family (1.5 million); FX (1.4 million) and Food Network (1.4 million) rounded out the top 10.
ESPN's final Monday Night Football telecast of the season, a Dec. 28 matchup between the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears, drew 17.7 million viewers to top all basic cable shows for the week. Overall, ESPN averaged 14.4 million viewers for its MNF telecasts, its highest total since the network acquired the franchise four seasons ago.
Outside of football, only USA's WWE Monday Night Raw wrestling franchise and an episode of Nickelodeon's Spongebob Squarepants broke the top 10 list among all basic cable shows for the week.
Top 10 Most Watched Shows For The Week*
Date Show Network Total Viewers
12/28/09 MNF: Vikings/Bears ESPN 17 million
1/2/10 Alamo Bowl-Mich. St/Texas Tech ESPN 7.8 million
12/31/09 Chick-fil-A Bowl-Virginia.Tech/Tenn. ESPN 7.5 million
1/2/10 Liberty Bowl-Arkansas-East Carolina ESPN 6.4 million
12/29/10 Champs Sports Bowl-Miami/Wisconsin ESPN 6.2 million
12/30/10 Pacific Life Holiday Bowl-Ariz.-Neb. ESPN 6.1 million
1/1/10 Outback Bowl-Northwestern-Auburn ESPN 5.6 million
12/28/09 WWE Monday Night Raw (10-11:08 p.m.) USA 5.6 million
12/28/09 WWE Monday Night Raw (9-10 p.m.) USA 5.3 million
12/31/09 SpongeBob SquarePants Nick 5.1 million
*- Period from Dec. 28, 2009 to Jan. 3, 2010
Source- Disney-ABC Television Group analysis of Nielsen Media Research
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R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.