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NBC says hail to the Redskins, but will game help prime-time score?

September 14, 2010 |  9:52 am

REDSKINS

NBC got its biggest audience numbers ever for a regular season game with its Sunday night coverage of the tight game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, in which the 'Skins squeaked out with a 13-7 win.

About 25.3 million people watched the game, according to Nielsen, beating NBC's previous best for a Sunday night game, which was last year's match between the Cowboys and New York Giants. That is a little off from the 27.5 million that watched NBC's Thursday night coverage of the New Orleans Saints beating the Minnesota Vikings.

Now the real question is what the trickle-down effect will be for NBC. The network pumped its football coverage full of promotions for its new fall schedule, particularly its big-budget drama "The Event," which premieres Monday. Most broadcast networks lose money on professional sports but often argue that they have value as promotional platforms for their entertainment lineups.

NBC, which shells out $660 million a year for its football package, desperately needs to improve in prime time and is launching several new shows that will require a heavy marketing push to stand out. Besides "The Event," other programs NBC is pushing heavily is "The Chase," which is from Jerry Bruckheimer, and "Outlaw," starring Jimmy Smits as a former Supreme Court Justice who goes rogue. It has not gotten a lot of early love from TV critics.

The networks and the NFL are going to keep a closer eye than usual on the ratings this season. While they are always scrutinized, the league wants to extend the season to 18 games and strong ratings will no doubt seem like proof that there is an appetite for more games. That would mean more money from the networks, which have been fairly quiet about the idea of extending the season.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Redskins and Cowboys battling. Credit: Rob Carr / Associated Press

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