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NBC Juggernaut Claims Another Sweeps Win

Times Staff Writer

NBC won the ratings Sweeps race for the 12th time in 13 races, the network said Thursday as it showed off May ratings figures in which the Peacock Network averaged a 14.9 rating for its prime-time programs.

In the race that ended Wednesday, CBS was second with a 12.0 rating. ABC, which interrupted NBC’s winning streak last February with Olympics telecasts that helped it top the sweeps charts, was third this time with an 11.7 average. Each ratings point represents 886,000 homes.

NBC’s victory was announced on a day that CBS became the last network to unveil its new fall schedule. NBC Entertainment president Brandon Tartikoff, flush with the network’s victory, put in a surprise appearance and said he has no plans to change the fall lineup he made public last week.

Tartikoff, whose network was the first to announce its fall plans, declined to comment on the new prime-time lineups of either ABC or CBS, saying he hadn’t yet seen many of the new ABC shows and none of CBS’ new wares.

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“I don’t have any qualms about the shows we’ve put on, or where we put them, “and we have no plans to alter that (NBC) schedule,” he said, alluding to the fact that rival programmers sometimes rejiggle their rosters after eyeing the competition.

Tartikoff’s network has won three consecutive prime-time ratings races and is expected to win again next season.

The four-times-a-year sweeps take audience measurements in all the nation’s TV markets and are of key importance to local stations, who use the results to set their advertising rates.

NBC’s “A Different World,” a spinoff of the hit “The Cosby Show” that precedes it on Thursdays, topped the list of 30 highest-rated series during the April 25-May 28 sweeps competition. It edged Cosby’s show by one-tenth of a ratings point, averaging a 22.0 rating.

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CBS’ two-hour finale for “Magnum, P.I.” was the sweeps-race winner in what NBC considered the TV-movie category. It had a 32.0, while Barbara Walters’ beefcake-laden ABC special--featuring Sylvester Stallone, Paul Hogan and Patrick Swayze--won the specials category with a 20.0 rating.

NBC’s “Something Is Out There” won the miniseries competition with a 19.2 average.

While taking pains not to scoff at the competition, Tartikoff did seem to be engaging in a bit of one-upsmanship.

He spoke just an hour before his CBS counterpart, Kim LeMasters, met with reporters in Los Angeles to discuss his network’s new schedule.

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Among other things, Tartikoff said that “there seems to be signs that things are moving positively” in the 12-week-old strike by the Writers Guild of America against the television and film industry.

He cited as examples what he called “interim agreements” with the guild that he said were signed Wednesday by Cosby’s production company and that of NBC “Tonight Show” star Johnny Carson.

Tartikoff apparently was referring to what the guild says actually are three-year independent contracts. A guild spokeswoman in Los Angeles declined to say if Cosby had signed such a pact, as Carson’s company has.

According to the guild, whose dispute with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers involves residual payments for one-hour series and “creative rights,” 39 such contracts were signed and returned as of Wednesday.

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(Such contracts, the guild said, are separate from any contract that may result when and if it reaches an agreement with the alliance that covers the guild’s 9,000 members. No “interim,” or until-the-strike-ends contracts are being offered, guild spokeswoman Cheryl Rhoden said.)

Other companies seeking the independent contracts include the producers of “ALF,” Fox Broadcasting’s “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show,” the syndicated “The Muppets Show” and the syndicated sitcom, “Out of This World.”

Whether guild members will approve the various contracts won’t be announced until today, the guild said.

Guild members were to vote on the proposed separate agreements Thursday night here and in Los Angeles. The contracts must be ratified before guild members at the various companies seeking the pacts can return to work.

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Federally mediated talks between the guild and the Alliance are scheduled to resume Saturday at alliance headquarters in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

Tartikoff, when pressed Thursday for details of the Cosby and Carson contracts, would only say, vaguely, that “this is all second-hand” information that had been given him.

“All I know is that there just seems to be some movement, for which I’m grateful,” he said.

Times staff writer Dennis McDougal contributed to this report.

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