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ESPN Scores a Touchdown Sunday Night

ESPN nabbed the fifth largest audience in cable history with its Sunday Night Football telecast Nov. 16 between the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. The game scored a 9.6 rating (8.4 million homes) and 11.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

ESPN says that also makes the game the most-watched cable program of 2003. The game propelled ESPN to finish the week of Nov. 10 to Nov. 16 with a 2.6 prime time average and 3 million viewers.

For cable ratings buffs, the four programs with higher ratings were: CNN’s Larry King Live Ross Perot vs. Al Gore debate on Nov. 9, 1993 with 11.2 million homes; TNT's Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 17, 1995 with 9.1 million homes; ESPN's Detroit Lions vs. Miami Dolphins on Dec. 25, 1994 with 8.9 million homes; ESPN's Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 3, 1995 with 8.6 million homes.

In last week's ratings, Nickelodeon came in second with a 1.9 rating and 2.1 million viewers. USA Network (1.8 rating and 2 million viewers); TNT (1.6 rating and 1.9 million viewers); and Disney Channel (1.6 rating and 1.9 million viewers) rounded out the top five.

TBS Superstation scored a hearty 3.4 rating for its showing of The Wizard of Oz on Nov. 16. But the network's prime time numbers are still sagging a bit, coming in with an average 1.4 rating with 1.7 million viewers.