Colorado shooting boosts rates

The unfolding tragedy of the Colorado school shootings helped newsmags win every hour of primetime Wednesday and boosted NBC’s “Today” to one of its best ratings in modern Nielsen history.

A special edition of ABC’s “20/20″ was the night’s top-rated program, winning its 10 p.m. timeslot in homes (12.4 rating/20 share) and adults 18-49 (7.5 rating). Average aud of 17.24 million viewers was the newsmag’s second-best showing of the season.

A two-hour edition of “Dateline NBC,” the second hour of which focused on the events near Denver, also scored with viewers, earning an 11.6/19 in homes and a 5.6 rating with adults 18-49 from 8-10 p.m. and winning every half-hour. It was the newsmag’s best perf on Wednesday this season, and helped NBC earn its best Wednesday 8-10 p.m. numbers since 1994. The second hour of “Dateline” averaged a 13.2/21 .

The only other time this season that newsmags have won all three Wednesday hours was on March 17.

’60 II’ blue

CBS’s “60 Minutes II,” which chose to stick with a previously skedded hour-long special investigation into a psych hospital, paid the price for not offering coverage of the tragedy. It averaged a 7.7/12 in homes and 3.0 among adults 18-49.

Seg had been heavily hyped and garnered extra press attention after the subject of the hour unsuccessfully petitioned a Federal court to block its airing. As a result, Eye may have been compelled to run the special “60” as soon as possible.

Minus any relevance to day’s events, “60 II” lost to a repeat of ABC’s “Drew Carey Show” (7.7/12) but out-rated the Alphabet’s 9:30 p.m. effort, “The Norm Show” (7.6/12), which skidded to its lowest rating in five outings (while still managing to win its slot with adults 18-34 and teens). “60 II” was fourth for the hour in adults 18-49.

At 8:30 p.m., ABC’s spring laffer “It’s Like, You Know…” (6.6/11, 4.6 rating among adults 18-49) slumped to its worst homes and demo perf in five airings. Show still managed a 5% increase upon its lead-in, a repeat “Dharma & Greg,” among adults 18-49.

Peacock wins homes, demo

With “Law & Order” (11.7/19) also turning in a solid perf, NBC won the night in homes (11.7/19) and among adults 18-49 (5.9).

Earlier Wednesday, NBC’s “Today” averaged a 6.3 rating/23 share from 7-9 a.m., according to Nielsen fast nationals. That’s the ayem broadcast’s fifth highest-rated edition since the introduction of people meter technology in the mid-1980s.

While finishing far behind “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America” also had a good ayem, averaging a 4.5/17 — well above the 3.6 rating the show averaged last week.

Katie wins kudos

“Today” anchor Katie Couric, whose emotional interview with two shooting survivors Thursday won kudos even from the competish, left Colorado later in the day for Washington, D.C., for an exclusive ayem interview with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Separately Thursday, the Radio and TV News Directors Assn. issued a statement urging local stations to adopt new guidelines for covering live events like Tuesday’s horror in the Rockies.

Denver-area stations drew some flak for broadcasting live cell phone calls from students trapped inside Columbine High during the shooting spree. Some critics suggested broadcasters may have put those lives at risk by identifying those students’ locations to the two alleged shooters, who may have been watching via TV sets in the school.

“The live coverage of the shootings this week at Columbine High School points out how critical it is for stations to have a plan in place for covering such disasters,” RTNDA prexy Barbara Cochran said in a letter to station and network execs.

The journo org sent a list of suggested coverage guidelines to stations, one of which was to assume that hostage takers have access to TV coverage of their actions.

One ratings point equals 994,000 TV homes. A share is the percentage of sets in use.

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