NEW YORK -- 'The Thorn Birds' simply pecked the competition to death last week, becoming the top-ranked miniseries of all time in terms of household delivery and propelling ABC into a whopping eight-point Nielsen ratings win.
'The Thorn Birds,' which delivered an average four-episode rating of 41.9 and an audience share of 59, reached 34.9 million homes per average minute throughout its airing. ABC research estimated that 110 million people watched all or part of the 10-hour broadcast.
'Roots,' with an overall rating of 45 and a share of 66 and an estimated audience of 135 million, remained television's highest-rated and most-watched miniseries.
The sweeping 'Thorn Birds' victory gave ABC a rating of 24.3 and a share of 38 for the week, driving CBS -- normally the prime time leader - into second place at 16.3 and 26. NBC, which saw its prime time schedule once again outpointed by the CBS 'Evening News,' placed third at 12.9 and 20 -- 18 full share points behind the winner.
The CBS 'Evening News' claimed a rating of 13.5 and a share of 24. ABC's 'World News Tonight' was second at 11.8 and 21, and the NBC 'Nightly News' was third at 11.3 and 20.
Despite its prime time loss, CBS saw a couple of limited-run newcomers hit pay dirt. The series 'Mississippi,' starring Ralph Waite, made the Nielsen Top 10, and 'Goodnight Beantown,' with Mariette Hartley and Bill Bixby, was No. 11. But for the 'Thorn Birds' sweep, it too would have been in the weekly winners' circle.
The Top 10 programs for the week ending April 3, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., were:
1. Thorn Birds, Part III (ABC).
2. Thorn Birds, Part IV (ABC).
3. Thorn Birds, Part II (ABC).
4. Dallas (CBS).
5. 60 Minutes (CBS).
6. That's Incredible (ABC).
7. Magnum, P.I. (CBS).
8. Simon & Simon (CBS).
9. Mississippi (CBS).
10. ABC Sunday Night Movie: The Sting (ABC).