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ABC Rides 'Elvis' and Olympics to Tie CBS for the No. 2 Spot

THE SWEEPS: One in a series examining the TV industry's periodic ratings rituals.

February 17, 1988|RICK SHERWOOD

Olympic figure skating figured prominently but part two of "Elvis and Me" was the king for ABC as the long-suffering network took second in the prime-time ratings last week, the A.C. Nielsen Co. reported Tuesday. That finish moved ABC into second in the current sweeps period and into a tie for second in the season-to-date totals.

Sunday's Olympics coverage scored a 19.7 rating to finish as the 10th most-watched program of the week, but it was the conclusion of "Elvis and Me" on Feb. 8 that ended up as ABC's top-ranked broadcast. It was in third place with a 24.9 rating (each point represents 886,000 homes). Combined with a strong showing for Part 1 the previous night, "Elvis and Me" became the top-rated miniseries so far this season.

But as usual, it was NBC's regular programming--led by its Thursday night slaughterhouse lineup--that won the Nielsen week, giving the Peacock network its 19th victory during the 21-week season-to-date. For the week, NBC had a 16.2 average, securely ahead of ABC's 14.9 and CBS' 14.2.

Season-to-date totals give NBC a comfortable 16.4 ratings average, compared to its competitors, who are tied at 13.6.

Ratings for the first two nights of the XV Winter Olympic Games compared favorably to the 1984 Games, this year's 15.5 two-night average outpacing the combined 13.8 in 1984. That '84 average, however, was severely impacted by event cancellations due to a blizzard; the network's prime-time coverage went on to average an 18.5 rating overall.

The popular pairs figure skating competition gave ABC its strong Sunday night showing, nearly doubling the Saturday night TV audience for hockey competition. That opening night coverage scored a 9.9 rating for a 60th-place ranking out of the week's 68 prime-time shows on the three major networks.

ABC's broadcast over the weekend also had to be altered--because of high winds--but coverage was rearranged rather than preempted as was the case in '84.

Meanwhile, in the 15-city overnight estimates, Monday's Olympics coverage topped the competition with a 20.8 prime-time average. Those ratings will be part of next week's totals.

If the Olympic numbers hold, however, there's a good chance ABC will win the current ratings week (which runs from Monday to Sunday). The network has won the only two weeks that NBC has lost this season, and those victories came primarily as a result of specialty sports programming--World Series and Super Bowl weeks.

It will be several days before projections can be made about Olympics ratings this time out, but NBC now concedes that the Games should do quite well this week. The Peacock is not being as magnanimous about next week, however, as programmers hope the four-part "Noble House" miniseries will lure a crowd tiring of the Olympics action.

Last week, CBS' telefilm "Hostage," starring Carol Burnett and daughter Carrie Hamilton, finished 13th opposite Sunday night's Olympics coverage. Last Tuesday's conclusion of "Windmills of the Gods" finished second in its slot to ABC and 19th for the week.

The only good news for CBS was stronger than usual showings for its Friday night lineup as "Beauty and the Beast" moved up the chart into 37th and "Dallas" knocked off "Miami Vice." "Falcon Crest," CBS' 10 p.m. offering, also defeated the premiere of NBC's new "Sunny Spoon" detective series, which had to settle for 49th place.

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