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The TV Season Finale

A Milestone Year, for a Decidedly Dubious Reason

Miniseries did well during May sweeps and NBC was again the overall season winner, but average audience shares for the Big Three networks dipped below half of prime-time viewing for the first time.

May 23, 1997|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NBC has found it difficult expanding the "Must See" franchise beyond Thursday, though not for lack of trying. Despite mediocre results with sitcoms Monday and Wednesday this season, the network will schedule a record 18 comedies across five nights in the fall.

NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield explained that the network is "trying to spread out our offense" to new nights. Despite losing viewers, NBC ruled the demographic race by the widest margin in a decade--when Bill Cosby was on its schedule--and scored the first back-to-back prime-time wins since CBS won three consecutive years, ending in 1993-94.

As for Cosby, his new CBS program was far from a runaway hit but did become the highest-rated comedy to open a night at 8 p.m. since his last show a dozen years ago.

Fox not only improved compared to last season but launched one of the few new-series hits in "King of the Hill," which successfully bridged the gap between "The Simpsons" and "The X-Files" Sunday nights. Moving "X-Files" also bore ratings dividends that more than offset the decline experienced Fridays by replacing it with a new show, "Millennium."

Fox's overall results were aided in part by televising two of the year's top sporting events, the Super Bowl and the World Series. In a case of the rich possibly getting richer, NBC will broadcast both next season.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Top 20 Series of '96-'97 Season

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Avg Viewers Network in Millions 1. "ER" NBC 30.79 2. "Seinfeld" NBC 30.56 3. "Friends" NBC 24.88 4. "Suddenly Susan" NBC 24.61 5. "The Naked Truth" NBC 24.48 6. "Fired Up" NBC 23.48 "Monday Night Football" ABC 22.38 8. "Home Improvement" ABC 21.68 9. "The Single Guy" NBC 20.89 10. "Touched by an Angel" CBS 20.25 11. "60 Minutes" CBS 18.84 12. "20/20" ABC 18.31 13. "The X-Files" FOX 17.87 14. "NBC Sunday Night Movie" NBC 17.54 15. "CBS Sunday Movie" CBS 17.49 16. "NYPD Blue" ABC 17.43 17. "Spin City" ABC 17.33 18. "The Drew Carey Show" ABC 17.03 19. "3rd Rock From the Sun" NBC 17.01 20. "Walker, Texas Ranger" CBS 16.98

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Source: Nielsen Media Research

* MORE TV NEWS

CBS aims to attract younger viewers with its schedule. F2

Rosie O'Donnell captures an Emmy on her first try. F26

Oprah Winfrey easily beats O'Donnell in local ratings. F29

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