The highest-rated NBA final series ever has launched NBC to a spectacular prime time Nielsens win for the June 14-20 week, the web’s fifth triumph in the last eight weeks.

The pro-basketball championship showdown between the Chicago Bulls and the Phoenix Suns averaged a 17.9 rating, 33 share, topping the previous highest-rated NBA final series, the 1987 L.A. Lakers-Boston Celtics matchup (15. 9/32).

This year’s Bulls-Suns showdown featured: the second-highest-rated NBA game ever, Sunday night’s climactic game six (which can also claim the most individual viewers ever, thanks to the ever-increasing population); the third-highest-rated NBA game in history, Wednesday’s game four; the second-highest-rated game five ever Friday; and the highest-rated games one and three ever during the previous week.

Sunday’s dramatic sixth game (20.3/39) delivered the second-highest rating ever for an NBA game, behind only the 21.2/37 scored June 21, 1988, with that year’s L.A. Lakers-Detroit Pistons championship series seventh game.

Ratings are a percentage of households, and are not inflated by population increases. Counting individual viewers, a measure that is inflated as the population grows, Sunday’s total of about 60 million sets the all-time NBA record.

Sunday’s 16-minute post-game show was even higher-rated than the game itself, achieving a 20.8/35.

While NBC will in no way bemoan these stratospheric numbers, it seems nearly certain the Peacock could have achieved an all-time NBA ratings record had the Suns been able to win Sunday and force a seventh game.

With the NBA’s two biggest names, Chicago’s Michael Jordan and Phoenix’s Charles Barkley, headlining the pro basketball’s championship series, the six-game average rating managed to land within reasonable range of last October’s baseball World Series (which finished with a six-game 20.2/34). Basketball does it in the low viewership month of June and with somewhat more profitable demographics than baseball is attracting these days.

Neither sport can currently challenge the single-game pro-football championship, the Super Bowl, which scored a 45.1/66 last January to make it the second-highest-rated telecast of any type (behind only “Cheers’ ” final episode) since the January ’87 Super Bowl.

And pro basketball’s four- to seven-game championship series still doesn’t equal the ratings of college basketball’s single-game finale, telecast in the early spring when overall viewership is somewhat higher. Last April 5, the North Carolina-Michigan matchup earned a 22.2/34.

NBC’s strong young-adults numbers from basketball propelled it to a big win among adults 18-49 for the week. The Peacock averaged a 7.7/24 in that demo, clobbering the competition of ABC (4.8/15), CBS (4.5/14) and Fox (3.4/11). NBC has now run no worst than second and CBS no better than third by this measure for the last 10 weeks.

The young urban appeal of basketball has meant that NBC’s success came largely at the expense of Fox, which got stuffed last week to its lowest weeklong rating since July 1-7, 1991.

Monday

But basketball is over and Fox immediately bounced back on Monday of the current week with feature film “The Babe.” Slamming a 9.1/16, the cable-bypassing Babe claimed Fox’s highest film share ever and won the night among adults 18-49. Measured by household rating, “The Babe” ties for third among all films shown to date by Fox, a stellar start for Fox’s Monday pic as a weekly fixture.

In results from the country’s 29 individual metropolitan areas metered by Nielsen, “The Babe” actually won in households and earned the best Fox Monday-pic rating ever (an average 11.8/20 in those 29 cities).

But in national numbers, ABC took the night in households when “Day One” (11. 4/21) stunned the 8-9 p.m. competition with the second-best “Day One” rating yet and best so far on Monday. The newsmag did it with a report on Pepsi’s PR campaign to combat false product-tampering reports and a story on patients mistakenly diagnosed as dead.

Then the theatrical pic “Dead Bang” (10.6/19) won the 9-11 p.m. race, marking just the second time in the past year that an ABC Monday pic has managed that.

Sunday

The second-highest-rated NBA telecast ever made it an easy Sunday victory for NBC, its third in five weeks and biggest since January’s Super Bowl. CBS came up with the most effective counterprogramming –“60 Minutes” and the theatrical “Parenthood,” though “60 Minutes” lost its slot for only the second time since last Summer’s Olympics.

Saturday

As usual, CBS won the night in households and Fox dominated among adults 18- 49.

NBC’s Saturday lineup is turning in ghastly numbers, particularly the 10-11 p.m. team of “Black Tie Affair” and “The Powers That Be.” They caused the Peacock, for the second time in three weeks, to flutter to its worst Saturday share since Jan. 16, 1982.

Friday

NBC’s Suns-Bulls hoops coverage jumped through the Friday competition and nobody was hit harder than ABC’s “Home Free,” which equaled ABC’s worst Friday 9 :30-10 p.m. share in the five years since a David Bowie spec aired there June 3, 1988. A low 92% clearance contributed to the “Free” fall.

Fox’s “America’s Most Wanted” finished the closest it’s yet come to the Friday 8-9 p.m. lead.

Thursday

CBS premiered its “Eye to Eye With Connie Chung” and saw its best share in the Thursday 9-10 p.m. hour since the “Knots Landing” finale, and second-best share there in the last 12 weeks. Chung even beat “Cheers,” though with demos that were dramatically older-skewing — a mere 13 share among women 18-34 and a 28 among women 50 and older.

ABC moved back into the Thursday lead as NBC turned its troubled 8-8:30 half-hour over to a President Clinton broadcast. The Peacock was also stuck with its worst Thursday 10-11 p.m. share since New Year’s Eve from the start of a test run for “Sisters” (which did manage competitive young-women demos).

The night’s demo race was nearly a reverse image of the households race. Households winner ABC dropped to a tie for last among adults 18-49, while NBC, third for the night in households, still won Thursday as usual in the 18-49 demo.

Wednesday

Basketball blew away the Wednesday competition, topping even the powerful “Home Improvement.” At 8 p.m., CBS’ live-action vidgame “Storm the Castle” got sacked, falling to the second-lowest CBS share that hour since Jan. 27.

Tuesday

CBS won its third Tuesday in four weeks, as ABC continued to endure poor “Jack’s Place” numbers.

NBC’s “Route 66″ may already be running out of gas, losing 24% of its ratings mileage in its second trip. Meanwhile, “South Beach” actually gained 1% with its second exposure, but it’s still the flabbiest net performer in the slot.

A Paul McCartney spec belted out Fox’s second-best Tuesday rating since Feb. 2.

Monday

Repeat telepic “Hell Hath No Fury” claimed NBC’s fourth Monday victory in five weeks (Daily Variety, June 16).

Each rating point represents an estimated 931,000 households, or 1% of the country’s TV homes. The share is the same sort of percentage, except that it’s measured against only the households watching TV during the timeslot involved.

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