'MNF' still in top 10 of all prime-time shows


NEW YORK -- The average national rating for "Monday Night
Football" this season was the lowest in the ABC program's 35
years, though it still ranked among the top 10 prime-time shows for
the 15th straight season.

The season average of an 11.0 rating dipped below 2002's 11.4
rating for the lowest ever. It was down 4 percent from last year's
11.5 average, which was the first year since 1994 that the average
rating for "MNF" had not dropped. The program ranked seventh in
prime time and continued to perform extremely well with male

"The only thing that matters is beating your competition right
now," ABC Sports spokesman Mark Mandel said. "It's doing what
it's intended to do and that's beat its competition."

This season was certainly eventful for "Monday Night
Football," which drew criticism from the NFL for a steamy opening
segment last month with actress Nicollette Sheridan, from ABC's
"Desperate Housewives," jumping into the arms of Eagles receiver
Terrell Owens.

"Monday Night Football" is heading into the final year of its
contract with the NFL. The exclusive negotiating period for ABC and
its broadcast partner ESPN, which has the Sunday night game,
extends for nearly another year. But there's been speculation that
other networks might challenge for the Sunday night and Monday
night packages.

Last month, the NFL agreed to $8 billion in extensions with Fox
and CBS to televise Sunday afternoon games for six more years. The
deals also would allow the league to show better matchups late in
the season in prime time.