NEW YORK -- 'The Winds of War' owned practically every television set in the United States last week, boosting ABC to unparalleled heights in the ratings race and scoring points of solid gold for the vital February sweeps period.
Despite sneers from many of the critics, Herman Wouk's massively hyped, $40 million, 18-hour megaseries became the most-watched television program in history, with ABC research estimating 140 million people sat up for all or part of it.
It carried ABC to the top of the prime time heap by a monstrous margin -- a rating for the week of 32.1 and an audience share of 46 - over CBS which was a distant second at 15.7 and 22, and NBC which wound up an even more distant third at 13.4 and 19.
The seven episodes of 'Winds' averaged a rating of 38.6 and an audience share of 53, delivering an estimated 32,150,000 homes per average minute to the network. The s:ore made the Wouk saga the second-highest rated in television history -- the highest being 'Roots' which still pulled only 135 million viewers.
Bolstered by the massive turnout for 'Winds,' the three networks delivered their highest combined weekly rating -- 61.2 -- since February 1979.
Only in news rankings did CBS maintain its lead, and even that margin was reduced somewhat from past measurements. The 'Evening News' led at 14.9 and 24. ABC's 'World News Tonight' was second at 13.7 and 22 and NBC's 'Nightly News' pulled up in third place at 12.8 and 21.
'Winds' filled up the Nielsen Top 10 like poured concrete, ranging in ratings from a low of 35.2 for Part VI to a high on the final episode of 41.0. With Part I ranked the previous week, the remainder took up the top six spots in the winner's circle.
The top 10 programs for the week ending Feb. 6, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., were:
1. Winds of War, Part VII (ABC).
2. Winds of War Part II (ABC).
3. Winds of War Part IV (ABC).
4. Winds of War Part III (ABC).
5. Winds of War Part V (ABC).
6. Winds of War Part VI (ABC).
7. 60 Minutes (CBS).
8. Magnum P.I. (CBS).
9. The Love Boat (ABC).
10. The Fall Guy (ABC).