The networks' coverage of the Middle East crisis last week boosted ratings for their evening newscasts by 19% and gave them a larger average audience than for prime-time entertainment shows.
The increase resulted from public interest in the news from the Middle East and U.S. military movements there, said NBC Research Vice President Preston Beckman. "I have no doubt about that," he said today.
CBS, NBC and ABC evening newscasts collectively averaged a 28.8 rating and a 60% share of the audience last week, compared with a 28.1 rating and 53 share for prime-time programs, Nielsen audience estimates showed.
ABC's front-running "World News Tonight" averaged a 10.6 rating. "The CBS Evening News," whose anchor, Dan Rather, has been in the Middle East since Iraq's Aug. 2 invasion of Kuwait, averaged a 9.3. "NBC Nightly News" ran third with an 8.9 average.
Each ratings point represents 921,000 homes. The audience share is the estimated percentage of homes tuned to a given program in its time period.
ABC Research Vice President Alan Wurtzel said it is rare for news ratings to do better than entertainment ratings. He attributed last week's ratings both to viewer interest in the crisis and "the summer doldrums in prime-time viewing."
CNN officials said their network's ratings had generally doubled; the newscasts were seen in 763,000 homes Friday night, and 659,000 homes on Sunday.