NFL Kicks ESPN to Top Spot


The National Football League is hot enough to carry an entire cable network on its shoulder pads. Buoyed by to stellar football ratings, ESPN finished November with a 2.4 average prime time rating, more than a half rating point away from its closest competitor, Lifetime, according to Turner Broadcast analysis of Nielsen Media Research. ESPN's ratings increased 33% over last November.

ESPN's Sunday Night Football franchise accounted for the month's four highest-rated programs on cable. The best came Nov. 17, when a New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders game notched an impressive 8.4 rating. In fact, the only non-ESPN show to rank among November's top 10 cable shows was Nickelodeon's own ratings smash, SpongeBob SquarePants.

Lifetime, which posted a 1.8 average in prime, fell into the second spot. TNT came in third with a 1.7 average; Nickelodeon and USA rounded out the top five, each with 1.6 ratings.

TLC continues to be Discovery Networks' top cable contender. The network turned in a 1.1 prime time average, up 38% from last year. Its Saturday-night redecorating favorite, Trading Spaces, posted ratings above a 3.0 five times in November.

And the Sci Fi Channel perked up 43% to a 1.0 rating. Its new documentary, The Roswell Crash,
investigating the excavation of the 1947 crash site (allegedly, of a UFO) in Roswell, N.M., notched a 1.7 rating on Nov. 22, the network's best rating for an original special.

Its sister net USA boasted a 3.5 debut rating for its latest original movie, Murder in Greenwich, based on former Los Angeles detective Mark Fuhrman's book on the murder of wealthy teenager Martha Moxley.