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

Updated: December 29, 2004, 11:09 AM ET
Associated Press

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 viewers.

"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.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press