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Olympian rates give CBS a win

With just three nights of the Winter Olympics counted, it’s virtually a foregone conclusion that CBS has grabbed the gold for this February’s sweeps.

Sunday’s telecast earned the third-highest rating ever for a night of Olympics coverage, Winter or Summer, behind only the broadcasts of Sept. 3 and 4 , 1972, when the Munich games grabbed ratings of 30.0 and 33.3, respectively.

And the last time an opening ceremony was higher-rated than last Saturday’s telecast was back on July 28, 1984, when ABC’s coverage of the L.A. Summer Olympics startup scored a 23.9 rating, 48 share.

In terms of homes reached (anever-inflating measure, due to the overall increase in U.S. population), Saturday set a record for opening-ceremony telecasts and Sunday set the all-time mark for any night of competition.

Those stratospheric numbers propelled CBS to a Feb. 7-13 weeklong victory with that net’s highest average rating and widest margin of victory in nearly a year — since the web aired the “Queen” miniseries the week of Feb. 15-21, 1993.

CBS enjoyed its highest Saturday marks since Oct. 26, 1991 (game six of the Minnesota-Atlanta World Series), and best Sunday score since Jan. 26, 1992 (the Washington-Buffalo Super Bowl). The Eye has also started this week with its highest-rated Monday since Nov. 2, 1987 (“Echoes in the Darkness”).

So with 16 nights still to count in the 28-night February sweeps, CBS is virtually assured of victory. Those averages are: CBS, 16.5/26; ABC, 12.3/19; NBC, 11.5/18; Fox Broadcasting Co., 7.9/12. Among adults 18-49, it’s CBS, with an 8.3 rating; ABC, 7.5; NBC, 7.3; Fox, 5.7.

Last week CBS got an additional boost Thursday from “Eye to Eye With Connie Chung’s” interview with Tonya Harding, the embattled skater who may help to bring the month’s biggest numbers of all when she competes in Lillehammer Feb. 23 and 25.

While the Olympics appeal is greater with older audiences than younger, CBS still solidly won last week among adults 18-49, its first victory in that demo since the World Series. Weeklong 18-49 averages were: CBS, 9.0/22; ABC, 8.3/20; NBC, 7.1/17; Fox, 5.7/14.

Young-skewing Fox has withstood the Olympics onslaught better than the competition. Last week Fox trotted to its highest household and adults 18-49 ratings of the season.

Monday

CBS’ Olympics swept the night’s half-hours with a 21.8/34 average, up 12% over the comparable ’92 figures.

Fox again effectively counterprogrammed, with “Point Break” (8.1/12) finishing third in its slot ahead of ABC’s “Day One” (6.4/10, its lowest rating ever) and the first half of “Look Who’s Talking” (8.4/13 for that hour and 9.4/ 15 overall). It’s the first time Fox has avoided a fourth-place finish on a regular-season Monday.

Sunday

CBS owned the night with the Olympics, scoring a 25% increase over the first night of competition from Albertville in ’92. An estimated 45.9 million viewers watched an average minute of the record-setting telecast.

Pro basketball’s NBA All-Star Game got slam-dunked by the Olympics as well as the loss of such marquee names as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson over the past couple of seasons. The ’94 All-Star rating was down a precipitous 36% from last year’s powerful 14.3/22.

A phone-poll episode of Fox’s “Living Single” dialed in that sitcom’s second-best rating of the season.

Saturday

CBS’ opening-ceremonies coverage from Lillehammer was up a scintillating 44% compared to the Albertville games.

Friday

The highest-rated “Miss USA Pageant” (14.3/23) in three years presented CBS with its best Friday figures since Jan. 1, 1993. ABC’s regular lineup still took the night by half a ratings point in households and 5 shares among adults 18-49.

“Miss USA” paraded 14% ahead of its year-ago 12.5 rating. By comparison, last Sept. 18’s “Miss America Pageant” earned a 17.6/35 for NBC.

Fox’s “X-Files” equaled its best adults 18-49 rating ever.

Thursday

CBS got its highest Thursday 10-11 p.m. regular-series rating since May 18, 1989 (“Knots Landing,” 19.2/32), from “Eye to Eye” and its Harding interview, dumping “PrimeTime Live” to its lowest rating since July 29.

NBC still dominated the night, winning by an astounding 17 share among adults 18-49. “Wings” again soared to its highest rating since Jan. 3, 1991, and “Mad About You,””Seinfeld” and “Frasier” all set or equaled their second-best regular-slot ratings ever. All but “Frasier” also grabbed their best-ever regular-slot adults 18-49 ratings.

Despite losing “Cheers,” NBC is up 28% in homes on Thursdays so far this season and up 42% among adults 25-54.

Wednesday

ABC squeaked out a win despite “Birdland’s” plunge to ABC’s second-worst Wednesday 10 p.m. rating in 10 weeks. Also, “The Critic” slid 3% below its “Thea” lead-in after topping it by 9% the previous week.

CBS had its highest regular-schedule Wednesday rating sinceMarch 17, 1993. ” 48 Hours” led the surge with its top rating in that nearly 11-month span.

Tuesday

ABC dominated, as record ratings from “Coach” and “NYPD Blue,” plus the best “Full House” score since last March 23 led the web to its highest regular-sked Tuesday rating since Nov. 12, 1991. “Phenom” had an off night, holding just 82% of its “House” lead-in. That’s “Phenom’s” lowest retention rate thus far.

A”Saved By the Bell” wedding episode topped all NBC regular-series ratings in the Tuesday 8-9 p.m. hour since Oct. 19.

Monday

NBC’s second run of “Fried Green Tomatoes” rolled over the second-lowest-rated “American Music Awards” in 20 years (Daily Variety, Feb. 9).

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