Despite massive publicity about Saturday's globally broadcast Live Aid concerts, preliminary figures Monday showed that ABC's prime-time telecast of the megaconcert didn't get mega-ratings--although ABC said it never expected a huge audience for its big show.
Based on overnight ratings from 10 major markets that include New York and Los Angeles, a composite estimate by ABC said that the network's three-hour Live Aid broadcast got a 28% share of that 10-city audience.
National A.C. Nielsen Co. figures for ABC's prime-time telecast of the famine-fighting rock concerts weren't available at Calender press time.
An ABC research spokesman in New York said that while the less-than-blockbuster ratings may seem surprising to some, the network had anticipated that the audience for its telecast wouldn't be huge, primarily because of competition on two other fronts.
The competition, he said, came from:
--MTV, the rock video cable network that says it serves 27.3 million homes. MTV televised the concert broadcast from London and Philadelphia in its 16-hour entirety, and thus apparently drew viewers that otherwise would have seen ABC's prime-time telecast.
--An ad hoc network of 105 TV stations that aired the daytime hours of the concerts, thus perhaps reducing the audience appetite for the three final Live Aid hours that ABC broadcast along with highlights of the concert that the network taped earlier.
(ABC had those prime-time hours on an exclusive over-the-air basis, while MTV had exclusive cable-TV rights to the entire Live Aid telecast.)
"We would have hoped for higher ratings," the ABC official said. "But a 28 share (of the prime-time audience) is not too shabby."
He said ABC's telecast was sold to sponsors on the expectation that it would get at least a 25% share of the audience in its time period, and "I think the network is pretty happy with the performance" of its telecast in the ratings.
The concert also was aired exclusively by ABC on three of its young-adult radio networks, and was broadcast in Los Angeles by KLOS-FM (see adjoining story).
ABC's Live Aid telecast on ABC-owned KABC-TV in Los Angeles got an average rating of 14.5, meaning it was seen in 638,000 homes, while the telecast on the network's WABC-TV in New York got a 12.5 rating, or about 825,000 homes.
A spokesman for KTLA-TV here, which aired the daytime feed of the Live Aid concerts, said KTLA's broadcast got an average rating of 9, which works out to about 396,000 homes.
An MTV spokeswoman said no ratings estimates for MTV's coverage will be available until later this week, while a Nielsen spokeswoman said no national ratings for the syndicated Live Aid daytime telecast will be ready until next month.
The Live Aid broadcast, which aimed at raising at least $50 million to fight famine in Africa, was beamed to at least 100 nations, according to officials of Worldwide Sports and Entertainment, the Marina del Rey company that marketed the rock spectacular.
Before the big show, organizers of the event had predicted that it would be seen--either live or on a tape-delay basis--by at least 1.5 billion viewers around the world.
Despite wire service reports Monday that the concerts had raised nearly $70 million, a Worldwide spokeswoman in Philadelphia said the first estimate, announced by singer Lionel Richie at finale of Saturday's concert, still was holding firm at about $40 million.