Cowboys-Steelers draws biggest TV audience ever

Media Watch

January 30, 1996|By Milton Kent

It just goes to show you: Give the people a better football game or perhaps even a better network and they'll come a runnin'.

According to fast national ratings from Nielsen, Sunday's Super Bowl telecast on NBC drew a 46.1 rating and 72 share of the audience, as nearly 138.5 million viewers and 61.3 million households tuned in, making the game, as the network breathlessly announced, the most watched program in television history.

A little perspective is in order. In actual numbers, the Cowboys-Steelers dustup was the most watched program ever, but only because there are more people than ever before. In real terms, Sunday's game was only the 16th highest-rated program of all time, and only the ninth highest-rated Super Bowl ever.

Still, Sunday's rating was 12 percent higher than the 41.3 ABC got for Super Bowl 29, and was the biggest Super Bowl audience in 10 years, since the Bears beat New England in 1986.

Baltimore's Super Bowl viewership numbers were unavailable yesterday.

Final Super thoughts

Of all the wrong-headed media behavior attached to Super Bowl coverage, the worst may have occurred during Sunday's "Sports Reporters" show on ESPN when Skip Bayless, who edits a Dallas Cowboys fan newsletter, was allowed to sit on the panel of "journalists."

What, wasn't the team's public relations director available? Bayless, who used to be a columnist for the late Dallas Times-Herald, generally doesn't belong on the "Sports Reporters" panel, given his current status, but his presence Sunday on a show where the topic was the Cowboys seemed especially egregious.

And wasn't that a curious utterance from Channel 13 morning weather guy Marty Bass when he insinuated that Pittsburgh quarterback Neil O'Donnell was in on some nefarious plan with the two second-half interceptions he threw?

That was a great line uttered by Charley Steiner during last night's early "SportsCenter": "ESPN's coverage of Super Bowl 31 begins a week from Thursday."

And he wasn't kidding.

The Magic's back

Thankfully, the real greatest basketball player of all-time, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, is back and TNT has altered its NBA telecast schedule to carry his return to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Johnson's first two games, tonight's home meeting against the Golden State Warriors, and Friday's home game against the Chicago Bulls, have been added to the TNT schedule to form doubleheaders on both nights, with air time coming after the 8 p.m. early games.

Bob Neal, Hubie Brown and Reggie Theus will have the call tonight, with Verne Lundquist, Danny Ainge and Cheryl Miller drawing duty Friday.

So far, NBC has not announced plans to add more Lakers games to its schedule beyond the three it has already planned, on March 3, April 7 and 14.

Art Schlichter speaks

Fresh off two probing interviews during the Super Bowl pre-game show, NBC's Bob Costas has a gripping piece on former Baltimore Colts quarterback Art Schlichter on tonight's "Dateline NBC" (Channel 11, 10 p.m.)

Schlichter and Costas talk from the federal minimum-security prison camp where the former Ohio State star is serving a two-year sentence on theft and bank fraud charges, related to his gambling addiction.

Costas gets a whopping 15 minutes to tell the pathetic story of Schlichter, who in 1994 alone stole or forged $500,000 to cover his gambling debt, authorities estimate. To his credit, Costas is tough but compassionate with Schlichter, only adding to his reputation, already towering in sports circles, and building in news and entertainment.

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