Monday Night Football Gives ABC Top Rating : Television: The 49ers-Giants game is most-watched in history, according to the Nielsen survey.

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ABC won the ratings race last week, with a big assist from the most-watched game in the history of Monday night football, it was reported today.

It was the first time this season that ABC's Monday night football led the Nielsen ratings list, and it was watched by 41,550,000 viewers, according to ABC. The game had a 27.0 rating and a 42 share, which despite the huge audience makes it only the second-highest rated Monday night football game.

That honor stays with the Miami Dolphins-Chicago Bears game of Dec. 2, 1985, which had a 29.6 rating and a 46 share--but because ratings points in those days represented fewer households, its total audience was 39 million.

Another factor that made ABC tops for the week--with NBC second and CBS third--was the Sunday movie situation.

ABC's "Columbo Goes to College" was the top-rated of the movies, tied for 21st, while CBS's "Donor" tied for 23rd and NBC's "Good Cops, Bad Cops" tied for 58th.

Since "Good Cops, Bad Cops" starred popular actors Ray Sharkey and Ed Asner and offered an interesting cops-as-robbers plot, why did it do so badly? One reason may be NBC's two-hour disaster, which provided as much lead-in audience as a resounding reading of the Los Angeles telephone directory.

It began with a "Chipmunks" special in 84th place, then came "Saved by the Bell" in 92nd, followed by an hourlong Robert Redford special that ranked 82nd.

In contrast, in that same two-hour time period CBS offered "60 Minutes," which came in second in the rankings and had its highest rating of the season, followed by "Murder, She Wrote," which ranked sixth. ABC began the period with "Life Goes On," which tied for 70th, but followed with its two "America's Funniest" shows, which ranked 12th and 13th.

The combination of football and a high-scoring movie gave the week to ABC with a 12.7 rating and a 21 share, while NBC had an 11.9 rating and 20 share and CBS had an 11.2 rating and a 19 share.

In the highly competitive 12-week-old season-to-date, NBC maintained its lead with a 13.1 rating and 22 share, while ABC was just .4 of a rating behind with a 12.7 rating and a 21 share, and CBS only .6 of a rating point off the lead with a 12.5 rating and a 21 share.

Night-by-night competition saw NBC win Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, while ABC took Monday and Friday, and CBS captured Sunday.

If the prime-time ratings race is close, the news competition saw ABC break away with the widest margin ever between "World News Tonight" and the second place news broadcast--2.2 ratings points and five share points.

ABC's "World News Tonight" was No. 1 for the 48th consecutive week, with a 12.2 rating and a 23 share. "CBS Evening News" with Dan Rather and "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw tied for second, each with a 10.0 rating an 18 share.

Each ratings point represents about 921,000 households.

THE TOP 10

The top 10 programs for the week ending Sunday, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co.:

1. NFL Monday night football (ABC)

2. 60 Minutes (CBS)

3. Cheers (NBC)

4. Roseanne (ABC)

5. A Different World (NBC)

6. Murder, She Wrote (CBS)

7. Empty Nest (NBC)

8. (tie) The Cosby Show (NBC)

Golden Girls (NBC)

10. Matlock (NBC)

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