Skating figures in ABC win

The U.S. Figure Skating Championships have jumped to ABC’s best Saturday rating since the 1989 World Series and earned first-place marks for the Alphabet net in the Jan. 3-9 primetime Nielsens competition.

With interest peaking due to the upcoming Olympics and the assault on women’s favorite Nancy Kerrigan, Saturday’s skating coverage vaulted ABC to its highest weeklong rating since last March 29-April 4, the week of its Academy Awards coverage. It was ABC’s fourth win in five weeks.

The Jan. 3-9 wars also featured a flurry of key new-series premieres, and both CBS’ “Burke’s Law” and ABC’s “Birdland” enjoyed impressive takeoffs, while NBC’s return of “Homicide: Life on the Street” also earned killer ratings.

Showing more modest promise in tougher slots are NBC’s “Viper” and “The Good Life.”

The week’s averages in the key adults 18-49 category were ABC, an 8.9 rating/ 21 share; NBC, 7.3/17; CBS, 7.0/17; Fox, 5.3/13. CBS has escaped third place in this demo just twice in the 11 weeks since the World Series. ABC has won the 18- 49 race 12 out of the season’s 16 weeks.

Monday

Things are going to get tougher for ABC now that “Monday Night Football” has hung up its cleats for the season. On Monday of this week, despite a “Columbo” vidpic (15.0/23, compared with “MNF’s” 16.8/28 average) and the season’s top-rated “Day One” (11.7/18), ABC lost the night to CBS’ regular lineup, which had won just once in its last six tries against “MNF.”

Sunday

CBS won Sunday in households as the “Snowbound” vidpic plowed to a solid win against strong competition. But ABC still won the night among adults 18-49 in what was nearly a three-way tie among the nets. NBC got off to a blazing Sunday start with the overrun of an L.A. Raiders-Denver Broncos football playoff game, the first program to win a half-hour from “60 Minutes” since the Chicago Bulls-Phoenix Suns championship basketball did it last June 20.

The Peacock’s “seaQuest DSV” rose to its highest rating since Oct. 17 and won the hour among adults 18-49.

Saturday

ABC enjoyed a spectacular leap in ratings from the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, winning its first Saturday in nearly 10 months (since March 13) with ABC’s highest Saturday rating since an Oakland-San Francisco World Series game earned a 15.6/29 Oct. 4, 1989.

The rating earned by Saturday’s ’94 championships jumped a powerful 41% above the ’93 finals and was the top-rated non-Olympic skatecast in five years, according to ABC.

Up against that competition, CBS’ “Harts of the West” and “Walker, Texas Ranger” slipped to their worst shares yet.

NBC got tarnished results from a 10-11 p.m. “Golden Globes” spec, the net’s lowest share that hour in four months (since Sept. 4). Earlier, “Getting By” held 93% of its “Mommies” lead-in, topping what “Cafe Americain” had averaged in that 8:30-9 p.m. hour in four of its last five tries.

Friday

ABC and CBS both hit their best regular-lineup Friday ratings in recent history, with ABC’s young-skewing lineup winning comfortably over CBS’ strengtheningbut older-skewing lineup.

CBS’ debut of “Burke’s Law” captured the net’s best Friday 9-10 p.m. rating since “The Wizard of Oz” last Feb. 26, and best from a regular slot occupant since the final episode of “Dallas” May 3, 1991.

That, combined with the best ratings this season for “Diagnosis Murder” and “Picket Fences,” gave CBS its strongest regular-sked Friday rating since Sept. 18, 1992.

But ABC still won the night easily when “Family Matters” achieved its highest rating since Nov. 8, 1991, “Boy Meets World” hit its best rating ever and “Step by Step” and “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” equalled their season highs. ABC’s nightlong average equaled the web’s best regular-sked Friday rating since April 5, 1991.

For the most part NBC was left far behind (“Bermuda Grace” was the lowest-rated firstrun “Friday Mystery Movie” yet), but “Viper” did speed to the Peacock’s raciest Friday 8-9 p.m. rating since Oct. 22. Among adults 18-49, “Viper” more than doubled the average of slot predecessor “Against the Grain.”

Thursday

It was a breakthrough night for NBC, its highest-rated Thursday since the “Cheers” finale. Excepting that night, plus the ’92 Olympics and the night of the final “Cosby” episode, NBC hasn’t had a higher-rated Thursday since Jan. 10, 1991.

The Peacock’s most welcome news came from the return of “Homicide: Life on the Street”– the net’s best regular-series result in the Thursday 10-11 p.m. hour since the Oct. 10, 1991, season premiere of “L.A. Law” (18.9/32). These “Homicide” numbers easily doubled the series’ ’92-93 average as a Wednesday regular (8.1/12).

The night also featured record ratings for “Mad About You,””Seinfeld” and “Frasier,” plus a slot-best for “Wings.””Seinfeld” earned the highest adults 18- 49 rating for any series episode this season.

Among adults 18-49, it was NBC’s largest Thursday margin of victory with regular programming since Nov. 30, 1989.

Figure skating scored ABC’s highest Thursday 9-10 p.m. rating in seven weeks. And this preliminary telecast topped the rating of last year’s finals by 13%, due in part to coverage Thursday of the Kerrigan attack.

CBS’ “Second Chances” dropped to the net’s lowest share in that hour since Oct. 15.

Wednesday

ABC got a hot start from “Birdland”– the net’s best rating in that hour from regular programming since “China Beach’s” 13.9/25 on Oct. 11, 1989. “Moon Over Miami” had averaged a meager 9.3/16 in the hour but did launch last Sept. 15 (in an earlier timeslot) with a robust 14.1/23.

“Birdland” lost 11% of its audience during its second half-hour, allowing the competition to close in significantly.

Contributing to ABC’s dominance on the night was the highest-rated “Grace Under Fire” to date.

“Grammy’s Greatest Moments” presented CBS with its best Wednesday 8-10 p.m. rating since the World Series. The figures were also competitive with the Nov. 27 “American Music Awards 20th Anniversary Special” (9.4/16).

Tuesday

ABC took the night despite the strongest CBS Tuesday pic in seven weeks.

NBC got a minor boost from the debut of “The Good Life,” up 17% over its “Saved by the Bell” lead-in rating. Timeslot predecessor “Getting By” never improved on its “Bell” lead-in by more than 6%.

At 9:30, “Cafe Americain” lost 15% of its “John Larroquette” lead-in, which is weaker than the retention rate of four of the last five “Second Half” episodes in the slot.

Monday

CBS’ lineup rallied to win the night’s ratings race (ABC had the stronger share) against the last “Monday Night Football” matchup of the season. It was CBS’ first Monday victory since a tie five weeks earlier. “Murphy Brown” won its slot for the first time in seven weeks.

NBC’s Monday preview of “The Good Life” suffered that slot’s biggest drop-off from its 8-8:30 p.m. “Fresh Prince” lead-in since last Feb. 15.

Each rating point represents an estimated 942,000 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 in which TV is being watched during the timeslot involved.

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