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Three-Way Scramble for Network News Supremacy

July 2, 1986

NEW YORK (AP) _ Will it be Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings or Dan Rather on top when daylight- savings time fades away and America returns to its TV sets?

This summer, the competition between the network news shows has become intense and unpredictable, but the weekly ratings released Tuesday by the A.C. Nielsen Co. convinced executives at all three networks that no one has a lock on No. 1.

For the week, Brokaw’s ″Nightly News″ on NBC was the winner with a 9.9 rating, marking the second time in June that it had dislodged the perennial front-runner, ″CBS Evening News.″ ABC’s ″World News Tonight″ was second with a 9.7 rating, while CBS finished third, with a 9.3 rating, for the first time in nearly five years.

″This may be a true changing of the guard,″ said Gerald Jaffe, NBC’s vice president for research projects. ″The race now is very close. No one is going to be winning every week.″

″I expect that it will be this close through the summer, and we’ll see what happens in the fall,″ said Ann Morfogen, director of information for CBS News.

Two weeks ago, David Poltrack, CBS’ vice president for research, had predicted that the network would pull away in the fall when people come indoors and more sets are in use.

″The only trend that is apparent,″ said George Keramidas, ABC’s vice president for research, ″is that the network news race is too tight to predict.″

″CBS Evening News″ had finished No. 1 in the weekly Nielsens for 213 consecutive weeks, until NBC won the week of June 1. CBS won the next two weeks, and then NBC won last week.

Network executives cited no special programming or schedule interruption which might account for the bouncing numbers in the past three weeks. In the weeks of May 25 and June 1, however, CBS News was hurt by the pro basketball playoffs, which pre-empted the news in some West Coast markets.

The prime-time race, however, continued to run NBC’s way, with its four Thursday night comedies, ″The Cosby Show,″ ″Family Ties,″ ″Cheers″ and ″Night Court″ taking the top four places.

″Growing Pains″ on ABC was fifth, CBS’ ″Newhart″ and ABC’s ″Who’s the Boss?″ tied for sixth, followed by ″Kate & Allie″ on CBS, ″Miami Vice″ on NBC and ″Moonlighting″ on ABC.

NBC, with 16 of the top 30 shows, had a 13.0 prime-time rating, while ABC averaged a 10.7 and CBS a 10.0.

Each rating point represents 859,000 homes with television. The share is the portion of sets in use during the time period.

It was ABC’s third consecutive week as runner-up, but Keramidas wasn’t predicting that the fight for second place would last beyond the summer. CBS is without its highly rated Friday serials, ″Dallas″ and ″Falcon Crest,″ while its ″Knots Landing″ is limping along in 55th place with repeat episodes.

Last month, Brandon Stoddard, president of ABC Entertainment, said the network would be putting better program on the air this fall but he didn’t expect to get out of third place in the 1986-87 season.

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