In the Sunday night television ratings war, the battle lines are being drawn between men and women.

After 35 years, ABC (search) passed on football in favor of "Desperate Housewives," (search) which has proven enormously popular among women.

Meanwhile, NBC (search) hopes to claim young male viewers by broadcasting Sunday night NFL (search) games starting in 2006.

For better or for worse, the majority of homes in the U.S. have more than one TV set, so it's unlikely blood will be shed over the remote control.

But the programming gender divide — the he-men of the NFL vs. Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria — on the most watched night on television has the potential to send men and women into different rooms for their viewing pleasure.

"In the den it will be dad watching football and either in the kitchen, bedroom or family room, it will be mom watching 'Desperate Housewives,' " said Bill Carroll, president of Katz Television Group, which buys ad time. "Who knows what the kids are going to be watching."

Even among homes with TiVo some families will pick to watch one broadcast live and record the other for later.

That could present a dilemma for network advertisers, who fear ad-skipping devices like TiVo. NBC executives are clearly banking that football fans will choose to watch games live.

"The only thing you can say with certainty is that all of these shows have certain constituencies," said Katz.

"Advertisers will look to those shows to reach those constituencies."

This season, the sexes haven't been divided when it comes to television viewing habits.

Twenty-five of the top 30 shows among women age 18 to 49 also rank in the top among men in the same age bracket, according to Steve Sternberg, who heads up audience analysis for media firm Magna Global USA.

Research shows that in general more women watch television than men, with the audience 60 percent female and 40 percent male.

"Desperate Housewives" draws an average of 14.3 million female viewers a show, compared with 8.6 million males, according to figures from Nielsen Media Research.

The breakdown is roughly 62 percent female and 38 percent male.

"Television tends to skew a little more female in the first place," said ABC's ratings guru Jeff Lindsey.

"Desperate Housewives" audience "isn't out of line in terms of being very one-sided. A large portion of the audience is women, but there is a male contingent as well."

ABC's Monday Night Football (search), which will move to sports channel ESPN (search) in 2006, is skewed more on the basis of gender, with the audience 67 percent male and 33 percent female. Last season, an average of 5.4 million female viewers watched the telecasts, compared with 11.1 million males.

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