NEW YORK (AP) _ An estimated 70 million people watched at least part of Barbara Walters’ two-hour interview with Monica Lewinsky, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings.
Nielsen Media Research gave ABC’s show a 33.9 rating and 47 share in its overnight measurement of 44 large markets, meaning just under half of the working televisions were tuned in to Monica Lewinsky.
The metered markets measure 63 percent of the nation’s viewers. More precise numbers for the country as a whole were to be made available later.
The Lewinsky interview Wednesday night probably won’t quite match the ratings of the decade’s biggest one-on-one. Oprah Winfrey’s prime-time interview of Michael Jackson in 1993 had a 39.3 rating and 56 share.
If the national numbers are similar, as expected, it would mean about 33 million households were watching ABC. The 70 million figure is the number of viewers who watched some or all of it.
Surprisingly, the ratings for the interview were strongest at the beginning of the second hour. For many major television events, there’s an initial curiosity factor and viewership drops off as it gets later.
But ABC said the rating was 32.8 for the first half hour, 34.5 for the second 30 minutes and 35.0 between 10-10:30 p.m. Only in the final half hour did it slip to 33.3. The share remained at 49 for the last hour, despite competition from ``Touched By an Angel″ on CBS and ``Law and Order″ on NBC.
Philadelphia was tops among the metered markets with a 39.2 rating and 53 share, followed by Boston, Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Jacksonville seemed the least interested, scoring a 23.6 rating and 33 share.
In Washington, the program had a 33.3 rating and 46 share.
But ABC, which scheduled the interview during the last day of a ratings ``sweeps″ month and asked advertisers to pay five times the normal rate for a ``20/20″ episode, said the numbers were ``stupendous.″