NEW YORK (AP) _ CBS won the prime-time ratings race again, but only NBC, resurgent after a decade in the cellar, managed to gain viewers in a season when the three- network audience dipped below 50 percent for the first time.
A.C. Nielsen Co figures, released Tuesday for the 30-week prime-time season, showed that CBS, led by No. 2 ″Dallas,″ fourth-rated ″60 Minutes″ and more Top 20 shows than the other two networks combined, won with an average prime-time household rating of 16.9, down from last season’s 18.0. It was the network’s sixth first-place finish in a row.
ABC’s ″Dynasty″ was the top-rated show with a rating of 25.0, beating CBS’ three-time champion and rival soap opera, ″Dallas,″ by three-tenths of a point, or by an average 250,000 households an episode.
But ″Dynasty″ was ABC’s only Top 10 series, and the network finished with a 15.4 rating, losing an average of 1.5 million TV households from the previous season and falling to third in prime time for the first time since 1974-75. ABC did show slight improvement in the second half of the season.
NBC was boosted by the phenomenal performance of ″The Cosby Show,″ which was the highest rated new show since ″Mork & Mindy″ six seasons ago, the most popular series since January and the No. 3 program for the full 1984-85 season.
As more proof of ″Cosby’s″ appeal, the final week of the regular season (April 15-21), which CBS won with NBC and then ABC next - had a repeat of ″The Cosby Show″ that had a 26.0 rating, high for the week and better than the season average for any show.
‴Cosby’ threw a halo around the whole network,″ said John Sisk, senior vice president of the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency.
NBC, with ″Cosby,″ ″Family Ties″ and ″The A-Team″ in the Top 10, finished with a 16.2 rating, up from last season’s 14.9, ranking first in adults 18-49, the most popular demographic group with many advertisers.
The Top 10 shows this season, in descending order, were: ″Dynasty,″ ″Dallas,″ ″Cosby,″ ″60 Minutes,″ ″Family Ties,″ ″The A-Team,″ CBS’ ″Simon & Simon,″ CBS’ ″Murder, She Wrote,″ CBS’ Knots Landing,″ and, tied for 10th, CBS’ ″Falcon Crest″ and CBS’ ″Crazy Like A Fox.″
Among the 22 new series introduced last fall, only ″Murder, She Wrote″ and NBC’s threesome of ″The Cosby Show,″ ″Highway to Heaven″ and ″Miami Vice″ were considered successes. ″Crazy Like A Fox″ was the only midseason replacement series to make it big.
Overall network viewing fell from a combined prime-time rating of 50.2 for 1983-84 to this season’s 48.5. The decline was 2.8 percent compared to the 1.8 percent drop from the season before. A rating measures the percentage of the nation’s 84.9 million TV homes tuned to network programming.
Independent stations, public TV and several cable networks picked up the defecting audiences, but no competing medium showed any sizable gain, said Dave Poltrack, CBS’ vice president for research. Cable News Network, because of the election year, and USA Cable, ″probably″ because of wrestling, showed improvement among the cable networks, Poltrack said. He also precicted that network declines would stabilize now that the majority of the nation has been wired with cable.
″Cosby″ led a comeback for comedy in prime time. Last season, no comedy was in the Top 10. This season, ″Cosby″ and ″Family Ties″ were Top 10 shows, while NBC’s ″Cheers″ (12th), CBS’ ″Newhart″ (16th), CBS’ ″Kate & Allie″ (17th) and ″Night Court″ (19th) cracked the Top 20. Poltrack called the successful comedies contemporary ″character comedies,″ as opposed to situation or slapstick comedies.
Serial dramas remained the most successful program format, averaging a 19.5 rating. General dramas, such as ″Highway to Heaven″ and ″Murder, She Wrote,″ improved their performance this season, while action-adventure shows, which made up nearly one third of the network schedule, declined from an average rating of 17.0 to 15.9.
With each network having two and sometimes three movie nights a week, TV movies dropped from an average rating of 17.7 last season to 16.2 in 1984-85. Miniseries fell from an average rating of 22.0 to 18.8, while theatrical movies, which often play first on pay cable, dropped to an average 14.4 rating.