ESPN scores big in ratings game against broadcast last week

NEW YORK (AP) ESPN was last week's big winner in the Nielsen sweepstakes, not only reigning supreme over its cable rivals but also humbling the broadcast networks.

The sports channel seized nine slots in the week's Top 20, including the first- and second-place entries - college playoff games between Alabama and Ohio State, and the Oregon vs. Florida State clash. Both games drew more than 28 million viewers, according to figures released Thursday by the Nielsen Co.

In third place was NBC's coverage of the NFL playoff game between Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Even without sports, CBS had a strong showing, seizing seven of the 20 slots thanks to its solid portfolio of dramas and comedies (and ''The Kennedy Center Honors'' special).

That helped CBS to an overall prime-time win for the week of Dec. 29-Jan. 4, averaging 11.4 million viewers. NBC was runner-up with 9.5 million viewers. Then came ESPN, with 8.3 million viewers. ABC followed with 8.2 million and Fox with 5.9 million. Univision had 2.8 million, the CW had 2.2 million, Telemundo had 1.24 million, and ION Television had 1.19 million.

With its 8.3 million viewers, ESPN was way ahead of the cable pack. Far behind in second place was the Disney Channel with 2.2 million, followed by third-place USA with 2.0 million.

As usual, NBC's ''Nightly News'' topped the evening newscasts with an average of 9.3 million viewers. ABC's ''World News Tonight'' was second with 8.6 million, and the ''CBS Evening News'' had 7.4 million viewers.

For the week of Dec. 29-Jan. 4, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: CFP Semifinal: Alabama vs. Ohio State, ESPN, 28.27 million; CFP Semifinal: Oregon vs. Florida State, ESPN, 28.16 million; NFL Football Playoffs: Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, NBC, 27.94 million; NFL Wildcard: Arizona vs. Carolina, ESPN, 21.68 million; Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick,'' NBC, 17.46 million; ''College Football Bowl'' (Thursday, 4:55 p.m.), ESPN, 17.39 million; ''College Football Bowl'' (Thursday, 4:46 p.m.), ESPN, 15.64 million; ''College Football Bowl'' (Thursday, 12:45 a.m.), ESPN, 13.28 million; ''Prime-time New Year's Rockin' Eve,'' ABC, 12.93 million; ''Madam Secretary,'' CBS, 11.69 million.

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ABC and ESPN are owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox is owned by 21st Century Fox. NBC and Telemundo are owned by Comcast Corp. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.

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