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Commentary > SportsBiz
'Desperate' on Monday nights
Promo controversy has overshadowed the fact that 'Monday Night Football' isn't grabbing the ratings.
November 19, 2004: 2:14 PM EST
By Chris Isidore, CNN/Money senior writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - If ABC had really been smart, it would have done a promo for "Monday Night Football" at the start of "Desperate Housewives," not the other way around.

That's because the most recent episode of ABC's sex-filled comedy drama actually got more of "Monday Night Football's" key audience -- men ages 18 to 49 -- than did "Monday Night Football" itself.

Nielsen Media Research's ratings show 8.4 percent of men in that key age demographic tuned into the Nov. 7 episode of "Housewives," compared to 8.1 percent who watched the pretty good 31-28 win by the Colts over the Vikings the following night.

Many people were upset this week by the racy promo for "Monday Night Football," which featured an actress from "Housewives" wearing only a towel trying to seduce a Philadelphia Eagles' star, then dropping the towel. The two then embrace.

While ABC is publicly taking some hits over the promo, what's more important for the rebounding network is it has a hit that can create this kind of buzz.

In "Housewives" it has one of those rare shows (at least for ABC) that is drawing large numbers of both male and female viewers. The last time the Walt Disney Co. (Research) network had a show that drew more male viewers than "Monday Night Football" was in 1993, with "Home Improvement."

Overall "Housewives" is pulling in an average of 21.8 million viewers, enough to put it No. 2 behind CBS' Thursday crime drama, "CSI."

"Monday Night Football" is averaging 16.6 million, down from 16.9 last season.

Continued slide at MNF

ABC has got to be concerned about continued slippage in viewership for "Monday Night Football", which has seen its average rating drop to 11.1 percent of U.S. households this season from 11.7 a year ago.

That's one reason ABC is pushing the NFL in its current contract negotiations for more competitive matchups. That Colts-Vikings matchup of a week ago is one of the few this season featuring two teams with winning records.

Despite the furor, MNF needs more promo help than does ABC's 'Desperate Housewives.'  
Despite the furor, MNF needs more promo help than does ABC's 'Desperate Housewives.'

While "Desperate Housewives" has been able to attract a sizable number of male viewers, "Monday Night Football" doesn't attract many women (about 30 percent of its viewers aged 18 to 49 are women).

Women used to be a much higher percentage of the "Monday Night Football" audience than they were for Sunday afternoon games, according to sports broadcasting consultant Neal Pilson. These days, they draw about the same.

But networks don't spend a lot of time trying to attract women to sports programming, mostly because Pilson said most sports advertisers are gearing their messages to men.

Still, if "Monday Night Football" could win back some female viewers, that would help its sagging numbers.

So maybe a promo on "Housewives" would be a good idea, even if many of the hard-core football fans are watching "Sunday Night Football" on ABC's cable sibling ESPN.

Business of Sports
Walt Disney Co.
National Football League

As to the concerns voiced that the promo wasn't appropriate for children tuned in at 9 p.m. ET to watch "Monday Night Football," there's one other piece of context to be gleaned from the ratings -- more children, both ages 2 to 11 and 12 to 17, are watching "Housewives," which also airs at 9 p.m., than are watching "Monday Night Football," although both shows only get a small slice of the young viewers.

"Desperate Houswives," gets 2.1 percent of those 2 to 11 and 4.3 percent of those 12 to 17, while "Monday Night Football" grabs only 1.4 percent of the pre-teen group and 2.1 percent of the older children.

Getting some younger viewers excited about football again wouldn't hurt "Monday Night Football" either.  Top of page

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