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Jackson Interview Seen by 90 Million, ABC Says

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.

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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.


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