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ABC News Back on Top After Losing Two Weeks to NBC

December 25, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ After a dismal December, ABC News will take any positive news it can get.

The dominant nightly news network for the past five years, ABC regained its top spot in the weekly ratings race after a surprising two-week winning streak by NBC, Nielsen Media Research said Tuesday.

For prime time, it was a typical week: NBC was the winner with a 10.3 rating and 17 share, and its drama, ``ER,″ was the week’s most-watched program.

The ratings victory for ABC’s ``World News Tonight″ during the week of Dec. 16-22 was its 219th win over the last 225 weeks measured by Nielsen. But it was the first in three weeks for Peter Jennings’ broadcast.

It has been a tough month for ABC’s news division. A Florida jury awarded a banker $10 million after ruling ABC’s ``20/20″ misrepresented him and a federal court in North Carolina said the network had committed fraud in sending reporters undercover for an expose on Food Lion.

Some media critics have also questioned whether ABC’s hiring of former presidential aide George Stephanopoulos set up potential conflicts for news programs.

An ABC News spokeswoman said NBC’s success in the news ratings earlier this month might be the result of unusual viewing habits due to the holiday season and does not represent a change in long-time habits.

``I don’t think it’s a trend and I don’t think we’re looking at it like it presents serious problems for us,″ said spokeswoman Eileen Murphy.

ABC had a 9.3 rating and 18 share for its nightly news program, compared with NBC’s 9.1 rating and 18 share. The ``CBS Evening News″ lagged behind with a 7.9 rating and 15 share.

For the week as a whole, NBC registered its 10th win of the 14-week television season. CBS was second with a 9.4 rating and 16 share, followed by ABC’s 9.1 rating and 15 share and Fox’s 6.7 rating and 11 share.

Among the emerging networks, UPN had a 2.9 rating and a 5 share, while the WB had a 2.5 rating and a 4 share.

A rating point represents 970,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 97 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of televisions in use and tuned to a show during a specified time period.

NBC’s once-a-season showing of the movie, ``It’s a Wonderful Life″ on Saturday night finished in 49th place of 110 rated shows, placing it behind Christmas specials by the cartoon characters Garfield and Charlie Brown.

For the week of Dec. 16-22, the top 10 shows, their networks and ratings were:

``ER,″ NBC, 23.0; ``Seinfeld,″ NBC, 19.9; ``Suddenly Susan,″ NBC, 17.3; ``NFL Monday Night Football: Buffalo at Miami,″ ABC, 15.2; ``Friends,″ NBC, 14.8; ``Newsradio,″ NBC, 14.0; ``Home Improvement,″ ABC, 13.5; ``CBS Tuesday Movie: Unlikely Angel,″ CBS, 12.7; ``NYPD Blue,″ ABC, 12.7; ``Touched By an Angel,″ CBS, 12.4.

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