ESPN Holds Off AMC’s Zombies

Not even a zombie apocalypse could slow down the juggernaut that is the National Football League, as ESPN’s coverage of last week’s Steelers-Bengals brawl served up 15 million viewers.

Pittsburgh’s 27-21 victory over reality TV stars Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco on Nov. 8 now stands as ESPN’s fifth most-watched Monday Night Football telecast of the season, per Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings data. Through the first nine weeks (10 games), MNF is averaging 14.7 million viewers, on par with the deliveries served up at this juncture a year ago.

(Despite the Eagles’ 59-28 trouncing of NFC East rivals Washington, overnights suggest that ESPN will have drawn as many as 16.5 million viewers last night. LSD deliveries for the 11th MNF contest of the 2010-11 campaign will be available later this afternoon.)

The Steelers-Bengals shootout also delivered 8.1 million adults 25-54 and 8.06 million viewers 18-49, making it the most-watched program on basic cable for the week ended Nov. 14.

ESPN also scared up big numbers with its NCAA football coverage. On Saturday, South Carolina destroyed Florida 36-14, in an SEC game that delivered 4.35 million viewers in the Saturday evening time slot (7:15-10:38 p.m.).

On the week, Bristol once again swept all key demos in prime, averaging 1.91 million viewers 18-49, 1.89 million adults 25-54 and 915,000 viewers 18-34. ESPN averaged 3.74 million total viewers, outpacing runner-up USA Network by around 1.06 million.

As has been the case throughout the fourth quarter, USA’s biggest draw was its Monday night wrestling showcase. On the night of the 8th, WWE Raw delivered 4.5 million viewers between 9 p.m. and 11:06 p.m., making it the week’s seventh most-watched program on basic cable.

All told, USA averaged 2.69 million viewers in prime, of which 1.14 million were members of the 25-54 demo. The network also averaged 1.1 million viewers 18-49.

Fox News Channel ended the week ranked third among ad-supported cable nets, averaging 2.09 million prime time viewers. Fewer than a quarter (23 percent) of those tuning in to FNC last week were memebers of the target demo, as the news net delivered 480,000 adults 25-54.

TBS averaged 1.96 million nightly viewers, while sibling net TNT drew 1.9 million. TBS enjoyed its biggest number on Monday night, as the premiere of its 11 p.m. chat show Conan drew 4.16 million viewers. A whopping 3.29 million Coco fans fell into the 18-49 demo; the target audience contributed to 79 percent of the premiere’s overall delivery.

As TBS was burning up late-night, TNT put together its best numbers on the prime time stage. The Turner net’s Thursday night NBA shootout (Celtics-Heat) drew 4.23 million viewers, more than half of which (2.26 million) were viewers between the ages of 18 and 49.

On the week, TBS took second place in prime with two of the major demos, drawing 1.18 million 18-49s and 691,000 viewers 18-34. The network also earned a third place finish among the 25-54 set, averaging 965,000.   TNT’s best showing came courtesy of the 18-49 demo, with an average delivery of 877,000.

The Walking Dead continued to devour its Sunday 10 p.m. competition, as the third installment of AMC’s horror hit averaged 5.07 million viewers. This marked an 8 percent improvement from week two’s 4.71 million viewers, and as such is a testament to the show’s popularity. (Most new series drop as much as 25 percent from the premiere to the follow-up episode; The Walking Dead dipped just 12 percent on Nov. 7. Moreover, after the first decline, another is almost always in store––therefore, TWD’s neat reversal Sunday night bodes well for the remainder of the six-episode inaugural run.)