Pigskin Pushes ESPN to Rating Victory

It looks like a lot of viewers were ready for some football.

Led by a pair of National Football League games, including the gridiron
circuit's first-ever Thursday-night season-opener, ESPN was
basic cable's runaway leader in primetime household ratings last week with a 3.4

The Sept. 5 game between the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants averaged
a 9.4 rating, while the Sept. 8 game -- the expansionist Houston Texans'
toppling of their intrastate rivals, the Dallas Cowboys -- earned a 9.6.

ESPN officials said the Texans-Cowboys game was tuned in at some 8.64 million
homes on average, making it basic cable's fifth-most-watched program ever, while
the 49ers-Giants tussle was screened in 8.15 million homes, making it the
medium's ninth-most-watched show.

The total sports network -- which also finished first among adults 18 through
34, 18 through 49 and 25 through 54 Sept. 2 through 8 -- eased past the 2.2
household rating notched by both Lifetime Television and Turner Network

The latter's average was fueled by the 4.2 rating driven by its coverage of
the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing Winston Cup's Chevy Monte
Carlo 400 Sept. 7 --the week's third-highest-rated show.

Nickelodeon was fourth for the week with a 1.9 primetime average, according
to Turner Entertainment Research analysis of Nielsen Media Research data. USA
Network was fifth with a 1.8.

Rounding out the top 10: Cartoon Network with a 1.5; TBS Superstation with a
1.4; The Learning Channel -- boosted by the season premiere of white-hot series
Trading Spaces, which was fourth for the week with a 4.0 household rating
-- at a 1.3; and A&E Network, Discovery Channel and Sci Fi Channel, all at a