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your tv ratings explained

TV Ratings: CBS and Zombies Thrive in an Otherwise Down Week

Tuned In
Another slow holiday-season week for the broadcasters, with viewership way down across the board. CBS kept its death grip on first place in overall viewers with 9.2 million (down from its season-to-date average of over 12 million). Among the kiddies (i.e., voting-age folks under 50), Fox was tops while NBC came in second (once again thanks to its Sunday NFL showcase). Over in cablesville, a big Monday Night Football game helped ESPN come out tops in prime time (with an average audience of just over 3.3 million). AMC had the biggest scripted show of the week on cable, however, thanks to the 5.97 million very much alive viewers who checked out the finale of The Walking Dead.

Tuned Out
You often hear about cable networks doing well, but not so much about those outlets barely registering on the pop-culture landscape. So this week: Equal time! Which basic-cable channel had the smallest average audience last week? Per Nielsen, it's poor VH1 Classic, which during any given minute was being watched by just 20,000 Debbie Gibson diehards unwilling to view their favorite eighties music videos online like the rest of us. No wonder MTV doesn't play videos anymore. (In fairness, there are likely a few other smaller cable networks whose audience levels are so tiny they don't even merit measurement by Nielsen.)

Crunching the Numbers
'Tis the season for holiday specials, as well as for journalists using phrases such as "'tis the season." In any case, seasonal chestnuts continue to be reliable audience-getters for the networks: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cracked the top ten in both viewers and adults 18 to 49, while NBC's Christmas in Rockefeller Center just missed the top ten in viewers. Meanwhile, ABC Family's broadcast of the movie version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas was a big hit with younger viewers.