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ESPN's 'MNF' Doubleheader Tackles Solid Ratings

ESPN’s season-opening pro football doubleheader special was special enough to give the total sports network the second- and fifth-largest household audiences on basic cable this year, but the two games’ performance lagged their counterparts from the NFL 2006 campaign. In fact, the second game of the twinbill, the San Franciso 49ers 20-17 triumph over the Arizona Cardinals, ranks as ESPN’s lowest-viewed Monday Night Football contest.

The Cincinnati Bengals’ 27-20 victory over the Baltimore Ravens (7 p.m. ET), earned an 8.6 household rating, representing an average of 8.29 households and almost 11.1 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research data. For its part, the Niners/Cards contest, which kicked off at 10:30 p.m., tackled a 6.9 rating, 6.63 million households and 8.5 million viewers. That performance fell below the Nov. 13 game between the Carolina Panthers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which pulled in 9.6 million viewers on average.

This week’s MNF games rank as the second- and fifth-largest household audiences on cable television in 2007, behind only Disney Channel’s High School Musical 2, which scored 17.7 million viewers for its Aug. 17 premiere on the Disney Channel and Monday’s season three finale of The Closer, which earned TNT 9.2 million watchers and the 8.8 million viewers that tuned in this season’s opener of the Kyra Sedgwick-starrer.