Times Staff Writer

Bolstered by big audiences for three of its new series and the highest ratings since 1979 for its Sunday telecast of the Emmy Awards, NBC emerged No. 1 in prime-time ratings last week, with the “NBC Nightly News” also in the winners’ circle.

NBC’s victory came in the final pre-season ratings battle before the start Monday of the traditional 30-week TV season. It averaged a 17.3 rating, with ABC coming in second with a 13.5 average and CBS third with a 13.1, A. C. Nielsen Co. estimates showed Tuesday.

Each ratings point represents 874,000 homes.

Bolstered by such hits as “The Cosby Show,” NBC won last season’s prime-time ratings race, wresting the first-place title from CBS, which had held it for six consecutive seasons. Most industry analysts expect NBC to win again this season.


The peacock network seemed ready to do that last week, when its reruns of the Cosby series and “Family Ties” were No. 1 and 2 in the prime-time Nielsens, and its three-hour Emmy telecast won third place with a 23.1 rating.

The last was the highest for the Emmy show--whose Nielsens had slumped in the last three years--since the program’s broadcast on ABC averaged a 27.3 rating seven years ago.

A total of 12 NBC shows, including a comedy special starring the durable Bob Hope, were among last week’s 20 highest-rated evening programs. ABC posted five winners, while CBS had three, including CBS News’ “60 Minutes.” The three new NBC series in the top 20 were “L.A. Law,” “Easy Street,” and “Crime Story.”

ABC’s new “Head of the Class” sitcom got off to a good start, too, coming in fifth last week. But the much-ballyhooed return of Lucille Ball to weekly TV wasn’t spectacular. The premiere of her new “Life With Lucy” sitcom on ABC was 24th-rated in the pre-season sampling.


The debut of ABC’s new “Heart of the City” fared far worse in the final week of pre-season sampling by viewers. It got only a 9.7 rating and was ranked 56th of the 59 network programs aired in the week ending Sunday.

With the ratings race for the networks’ evening newscasts becoming increasingly close, last week brought bad news for the “CBS Evening News,” which had been first in ratings for 213 weeks until that string was broken in June by the resurgent “NBC Nightly News.”

Even though CBS’ newscast was moved to a new 6:30 p.m. time slot on CBS-owned KCBS in Los Angeles and anchored by Dan Rather from Los Angeles for four days, that newscast was beaten by Tom Brokaw & Co. in the national Nielsens.

Brokaw’s “NBC Nightly News"--which over five nights last week was broadcast from five West Coast cities, including Los Angeles--won the week. It averaged a 10.6 rating. Rather’s CBS newscast was second with a 10.1 rating, while ABC’s “World News Tonight” was third with a 9.7 average.