Patriots-Cowboys was game of the decade

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NEW YORK -- Sunday afternoon's New England Patriots-Dallas Cowboys game not only left the Patriots as the only 6-0 team in the NFL, but it also was the most-watched NFL regular-season game in more than a decade.

The late-afternoon national game averaged 29.1 million viewers, the most for a regular-season matchup since the Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers game in November 1996 and the largest audience for anything on broadcast TV since the "American Idol" finale in May. It also helped CBS boost its adults 18-49 rating.

ABC and CBS finished in a tie for first place in the adults 18-49 demographic for the week ending Oct. 14, with ABC seeing better returns on Thursday and "Women's Murder Club" bowing well Friday night.

ABC squeaked ahead of CBS in the demo right off the bat with a Monday win, Nielsen Media Research said. That was thanks in large part to "Dancing With the Stars" (19.6 million, 5.0 rating/12 share in adults 18-49), which was the top show in viewership, though it fell to NBC's "Heroes" (10.9 million, 5.1/12) for the night in the demo.

Tuesday was all about Fox, with "House" (18 million, 7.4/18) winning the night and rising far above the "Dancing" results show (16.4 million, 4.1/10). ABC's much-discussed "Cavemen" (7 million, 2.6/6) came in third place in the 8 p.m. hour.

Wednesday went back into ABC's corner, with "Pushing Daisies" (10.3 million, 3.7/11) winning the hour and "Private Practice" (12.4 million, 4.9/13) winning in the demo at 9 p.m. against CBS' "Criminal Minds" (14.5 million, 3.9/10) and NBC's "Bionic Woman" (10.3 million, 3.9/10). CBS won at 10 p.m. with "CSI: NY" (13.4 million, 4.1/11).

ABC won in the demo Thursday, with "Grey's Anatomy" (19 million, 7.9/19) ahead of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (19.8 million, 6.1/15). ABC's "Big Shots" (8.5 million, 3.6/10) tied with CBS' "Without a Trace" (13.6 million, 3.6/10).

Friday saw the successful debut of ABC's "Women's Murder Club" (10.8 million, 2.5/8), which tied with CBS' "Numbers" (9.2 million, 2.5/8) for the lead on the night. Fox saw decreases year-over-year with the Games 1 and 2 of the American League Championship Series, though that was easily explainable by the fact that the games this year were Friday and Saturday.

Sunday went to CBS, which had a big boost for an hour early in primetime with the NFL. NBC's "Sunday Night Football" (11.2 million, 4.7/12) wasn't as much of a factor. CBS' "60 Minutes" (17.2 million, 4.2/11) came out ahead in viewership over ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" (12.2 million, 4.4/11), which squeaked by in the demo. ABC won with "Desperate Housewives" (18.9 million, 7.4/17).

It was a split victory in the evening newscasts, with "NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams" winning in viewership with 7.9 million viewers compared with 7.8 million for ABC's "World News With Charles Gibson" and 6.1 million for the "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric." But ABC was ahead in the news demo of adults 25-54 with a 2.0 rating, followed by NBC (1.9) CBS (1.5).

For the week in primetime, CBS (12.3 million, 3.6/9) and ABC (11 million, 3.6/10) were tied for the lead in adults 18-49, followed by NBC (8 million, 3.0/8), Fox (7.8 million, 2.9/8), the CW (3 million, 1.2/3) and MyNetworkTV (760,000, 0.3/8).
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