Barack Obama interview marks CBS ratings win

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’60 Minutes’ has been on the air for 40 years, but there’s life in it yet. Last week the newsmagazine helped guide CBS to its seventh straight week as the most-watched network. CBS also won, although narrowly, in the key category of adults ages 18 to 49.

Correspondent Steve Kroft’s interview with President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, helped make ’60 Minutes’ the week’s No. 1 program, with an average of 25.1 million total viewers, its largest audience since January 1999, according to figures published today by Nielsen Media Research. (As is customary in the fall, ’60 Minutes’ was also helped by an NFL lead-in in some markets.)

The Obama sit-down, the president-elect’s first extensive TV interview since the election, was so strong it even outpaced NBC’s Sunday match-up between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, an old grudge match between two fabled teams. The game gathered 19.3 million viewers for the week’s runner-up spot.

Overall, CBS won the week with an average of 12.3 million total viewers, followed by ABC (10.5 million), NBC (7.7 million) and Fox (6.8 million). In the 18-to-49 demographic, the race was much closer, with CBS brushing past ABC, a 3.3 rating versus a 3.1.


CBS was helped along by perennial favorites such as ‘CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ (19 million) and ‘NCIS’ (18.8 million, a series high), while ABC benefited from Wednesday’s CMA Awards (15.9 million).

Beyond football, NBC continued to suffer, finishing no better than third place in the 18-49 category every night except Sunday. Fox is largely in a holding pattern until the return of ‘American Idol’ in January, but the combination of ‘House’ and ‘Fringe’ was enough to take Tuesday among young adults.

On basic cable, ESPN’s Monday match-up between the 49ers and the Cardinals was the week’s No. 1 program, with 11.9 million total viewers.

—Scott Collins