ABC estimated Thursday that 90 million people watched at least part of its Michael Jackson interview Wednesday night--making it one of the most-viewed entertainment programs in television history.
The 90-minute broadcast attracted a whopping 56% of the people watching television in the United States at the time--and 63% of those in the Los Angeles-Ventura-Orange county area.
Its Nielsen rating of 39.3 was the highest for an entertainment program since "The Cosby Show" garnered a 41.3 on Jan. 22, 1987, ABC said. This year's Super Bowl got a 45.1 rating. "60 Minutes," the top-rated weekly series this season, averages a 23.2 rating.
A rating is the percentage of all U.S. TV households that are tuned to a given program. Because the population has grown over the years, the number of homes represented by a rating point also has increased, so that even though many shows have had higher ratings than Jackson's, the actual number of homes he reached--36.5 million--was the fourth highest for an entertainment program since records began being kept in 1960.
The only entertainment programs to reach more households were the final episode of "MASH" in 1983, at 50.1 million; the "Who Shot J.R.?" episode of "Dallas" in 1980, at 41.5 million, and the nuclear-war movie "The Day After" in 1983, at 38.3 million.