ABC and NBC, each with a miniseries episode finishing in the top 10, tied for the lead in the week's ratings, while CBS was a mere two-tenths behind--the closest three-way competition in prime time since July, 1976.
For the week of Feb. 18-24, CBS' "Dallas" finished first, Parts 2 and 3 of ABC's "Hollywood Wives" were 13th and second, respectively, and NBC's initial installment of "Evergreen" was ninth, according to figures released Tuesday by the A.C. Nielsen Co.
ABC and NBC each had an average rating of 17.0 in prime time, closely followed by CBS' 16.8.
NBC, continuing its strong showing as the No. 2 network, is practically assured of its first second-place finish for a February sweeps since 1975. The Nielsen sweeps end today. So far, CBS leads Nielsen's sweeps with a 17.5 rating to NBC's 16.9 and ABC's 16.4.
The major sweeps months of February, May and November are when ratings for local stations are calculated and used to determine future advertising rates.
And, with eight weeks left in the 30-week prime-time season, CBS holds a commanding lead with a 17.2 rating, NBC has averaged a 16.4 and ABC a 15.7.
One ratings point equals 1% of the nation's 84.9 million TV homes.
"Hollywood Wives," which began with lower-than-expected ratings, finished strongly, almost reaching the 40 share (percentage of sets in use) forecast by some advertising agencies. ABC had two regular series in the top 10: fourth-rated "Dynasty," and No. 7 "Who's the Boss?"
Gerald Jaffe, NBC's vice president for special projects, said he was relieved that "Hollywood Wives" didn't attract blockbuster ratings. This season, no miniseries, except "Fatal Vision," has performed spectacularly.
NBC was able to keep pace last week with its regular series, Part 1 of "Evergreen" and some successful counter-programming against "Hollywood Wives."
Against "Hollywood Wives," NBC scored with a strong male-appeal show, the two-hour repeat of "The A-Team," which finished 12th, and "Disneyland's 30th Anniversary" special, which ranked 18th.
On Madison Avenue, where ad agencies buy specific programs for their clients and not overall network ratings, NBC's resurgence is even more significant because of the kinds of people the network is reaching (demographics), rather than how many people (ratings) are being reached.
"The story is NBC's commanding lead with adults 18-49; it's almost like Secretariat," said John Sisk, senior vice president and director of network negotiating at the J. Walter Thompson ad agency.
For adults 18-49, which is the key group for advertisers, the ratings for all prime-time programs this season breaks down this way: NBC-11.2; ABC-10.2, and CBS-10.1. For regular series, the ratings are: NBC-11.4; ABC-10.3, and CBS-10.2.