ESPN Scores a Touchdown Sunday Night

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ESPN nabbed the fifth largest audience in cable history with its Sunday Night Football telecast Nov. 16 between the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots. The game scored a 9.6 rating (8.4 million homes) and 11.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.

ESPN says that also makes the game the most-watched cable program of 2003. The game propelled ESPN to finish the week of Nov. 10 to Nov. 16 with a 2.6 prime time average and 3 million viewers.

For cable ratings buffs, the four programs with higher ratings were: CNN’s Larry King Live Ross Perot vs. Al Gore debate on Nov. 9, 1993 with 11.2 million homes; TNT's Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 17, 1995 with 9.1 million homes; ESPN's Detroit Lions vs. Miami Dolphins on Dec. 25, 1994 with 8.9 million homes; ESPN's Buffalo Bills vs. San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 3, 1995 with 8.6 million homes.

In last week's ratings, Nickelodeon came in second with a 1.9 rating and 2.1 million viewers. USA Network (1.8 rating and 2 million viewers); TNT (1.6 rating and 1.9 million viewers); and Disney Channel (1.6 rating and 1.9 million viewers) rounded out the top five.

TBS Superstation scored a hearty 3.4 rating for its showing of The Wizard of Oz on Nov. 16. But the network's prime time numbers are still sagging a bit, coming in with an average 1.4 rating with 1.7 million viewers.