Matchup looking super for Fox

Giants-Pats promising after strong Sunday ratings

Sunday night's overtime NFC Championship Game was nothing but victory for Fox, and the New York-New England matchup bodes well for the Super Bowl XLII ratings in two weeks.

Fox averaged a 31.7 rating/46 share in the overnight household markets measured by Nielsen Media Research, the only relatively accurate ratings available Monday. That gave the NFC's Green Bay Packers-New York Giants game a 10% advantage in the overnight ratings compared with last year's New England Patriots-Indianapolis Colts AFC championship (28.6/40), which ran in a comparable time period.

That sets up a Super Bowl of the undefeated Patriots against the wild card Giants. Although it might not appeal to the country at large like a good Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees matchup, the NFL's championship game pits the team the country loves to hate against the underdog Giants, led by a young quarterback who nearly derailed the Patriots' undefeated season last month.

The Patriots are vying for their fourth Super Bowl win in seven years; the Giants have a Manning at the helm, though it isn't last year's Super Bowl MVP Peyton Manning but rather his younger brother Eli.

That being said, informed estimates expected that the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl could end up 10% higher in the ratings. Last year's Super Bowl, which pitted the Colts against the Chicago Bears, averaged 92.8 million viewers on CBS. This year it's Fox, which cleaned up Sunday night with the NFC title game, had a terrific NFC season in the ratings and has "American Idol" to warm the chill of the writers strike.

Sunday night's game was the best NFC championship ratings since 1996's Packers-Dallas Cowboys game (32.9/55). It was a strong day for the AFC, too: Sunday afternoon's Patriots-San Diego Chargers game averaged a 27.4/48, up 5% from last year's NFC game in the same time period and the best early championship game rating since 2005.

Although it might not be a fair comparison given that the NFC game was probably the most popular program this year short of the Super Bowl, the CW fumbled in the ratings Sunday, averaging just 688,000 viewers and a 0.2 rating/0 share in adults 18-49. Network ratings research departments weren't open Monday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday for comparisons.

Fox was pretty much the only game in town Sunday, though ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (11.5 million, 4.3/9) was the night's nonsports winner in its second hour. The first hour of "Extreme Makeover" (9.3 million, 3.3/7) and the season finale of "The Amazing Race" (9.7 million, 3.1/7) struggled against football.

The CW barely registered, with micro-numbers for its Sunday lineup that included a repeat "Aliens in America" (462,000, 0.1/0) and a "Life is Wild" (799,000, 0.2/0) that didn't do much better.

It goes without saying that Fox was the night's top network in viewership and the 18-49 demographic, followed by ABC (7.9 million, 2.8/6), CBS (7.9 million, 2.0/4), NBC (4.5 million, 1.2/3) and the CW (688,000, 0.2/0).
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