News is no ratings killer

News programming doesn't have to be a ratings killer, as both CBS and ABC found out last week.

The venerable newsmagazine "60 Minutes" had 18.2 million viewers on Sunday. It had a trio of news-making interviews, with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the assassination of his chief political rival, with baseball star Roger Clemens about steroid allegations and with a Boston mobster who said he's killed 20 people.

Among the 25-to-54-year-old demographic considered key for news shows, it was the best "60 Minutes" performance in more than two years, according to Nielsen Media Research.

ABC News devoted its prime-time Saturday to back-to-back debates among Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, and they did better than ABC's usual Saturday programming. An estimated 9.4 million people watched the Democrats, about 2 million more than saw the Republicans.

CNN's replay of the debates Sunday brought in nearly 1 million for the Republicans and 1.4 million for the Democrats, Nielsen said.

Hungry for new programming, viewers welcomed back NBC's "Law & Order" with a top 10 showing and 13.5 millon viewers. A fresh episode of ABC's "Desperate Housewives" nearly topped 20 million viewers and the network's "Cashmere Mafia" premiered with 10.6 million viewers.

With two prime-time National Football League playoff games, NBC easily beat its rivals, averaging 11.7 million viewers last week (7.1 rating, 12 share). CBS had 8.8 million (5.7, 9), Fox 8.7 million (5.3, 9) and ABC 8.4 million (5.3, 9), the CW 1.9 million (1.3, 2), My Network TV 1.4 million (0.9, 1) and ION Television 560,000 (0.4, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision averaged 3.1 million viewers (1.5 rating, 2 share), Telemundo had 1.2 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura 640,000 (0.3, 1) and Azteca 110,000 (0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" continued its strong comeback in the evening news ratings race, averaging 9.8 million viewers (6.4 rating, 12 share). ABC's "World News" had 9 million viewers (6.1, 11) and the "CBS Evening News" had 7.1 million (4.8, 8.

A ratings point represents 1,128,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 112.8 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of Dec. 31-Jan. 6, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships:

NFL Playoffs: Jacksonville at Pittsburgh, NBC

25.74 million; "NFL Playoff Pre-Kick," NBC, 23.87 million

"NFL Playoff Bridge," NBC, 23.48 million

"AFC Wild Card Postgame," CBS, 21.37 million

"Desperate Housewives," ABC, 19.78 million

"60 Minutes," CBS, 18.25 million

"Law & Order," NBC, 13.46 million

"Deal or No Deal" (Thursday), NBC 13.41 million

"CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 13.25 million

"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," ABC, 12.6 million.


ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is a division of CBS Corp. Fox is a unit of News Corp. NBC is owned by General Electric Co. Telemundo is owned by General Electric. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks.


On the Net:

AP-WS-01-08-08 1635EST