NEW YORK -- ABC won the gold in last week's rating race, is going for the gold in the February sweeps and may push CBS into third place for the 1987-88 season for the first time in television history, it was reported Tuesday.
The Olympics have made the difference.
For the week ending Feb. 21, ABC led with a 19.4 rating and a 30 share. NBC was second with a 15.0 rating and a 23 share and CBS last with a 12.8 rating and a 20 share.
ABC was the most-watched network every night of the week except Thursday, when Bill Cosby led NBC to its usual first place position.
In the sweeps to date, ABC leads with a 16.3 rating and a 26 share. NBC is second with a 16 rating and a 25 share and CBS is third with a 13.7 and a 21 share.
For the big one, the 1987-88 season, after 22 weeks NBC is comfortably ahead with a 16.3 rating and a 27 share. ABC has a 13.8 rating and a 23 share, while CBS has a 13.6 rating and a 22 share.
The ratings gurus at ABC are optimistic that their network will be No. 2 for the season.
'Right now we are ahead of CBS by two tenths of a rating point,' said Larry Hyams, ABC director or audience analysis.
'After the Olympics are over we estimate that margin should be about four tenths of a rating point. With the promotional support that our March prime time schedule changes have had during the Olympics and the impact of the Academy Awards telecast in April, we feel we should be able to maintain that second place position at the end of the season.'
At CBS, however, they were not ready to concede the season.
'Nobody can claim second place at this point,' said Michael Eisenberg, director of national television research for the CBS Broadcast Group.
'Regular series against regular series, CBS has quite an advantage over ABC. For the entire season, we are nine tenths of a point ahead of ABC, that is 13.7 to 12.8. And in the last seven weeks of the season after the Olympics, CBS should do as well if not better. So it's going to be very close.'
As for ABC's three tenths of a ratings point lead over second place NBC in the sweeps, he said:
'We have Olympics coverage scheduled for seven of the remaining nine nights of the sweeps. We have been averaging an 18.4 rating to date and with what should be the highest rated event -- women's figure skating - scheduled for Thursday and Saturday evenings, it's a very safe bet we will maintain and even expand the lead we have now in the sweeps.'
The biggest night so far was Tuesday, Feb. 16, when the United States won its first medal of the Calgary games -- a bronze for figure skating pairs.
The Olympics also came in first on Sunday night, outdistancing the first part of NBC's miniseries, 'Noble House,' and the return of Dobie Gillis on CBS. The Sunday Olympics chalked up an 18.2 rating and a 28 share, while 'Noble House' had a 17.9 rating and a 27 share. 'Bring Me The Head of Dobie Gillis' was third with a 15 rating and a 23 share.
In news ratings for the week, 'ABC World News Tonight' with Peter Jennings won with an 12.0 rating and a 21 share. 'CBS Evening News' with Dan Rather was second with an 11.1 rating and 19 share. 'NBC Nightly News' with Tom Brokaw was third with 10.0 rating and an 18 share.
Each ratings point represents about 887,000 households and ashare is the percentage of TV sets tuned to a particular show.
Winner of the week: Winter Olympics.
Loser of the week: CBS.
The top prime time shows for the week ending Feb. 21, according to the A.C. Nielsen Co., were:
1. Winter Olympics Tuesday (ABC)
2. The Cosby Show (NBC)
3. Winter Olympics Saturday (ABC)
4. A Different World (NBC)
5. 60 Minutes (CBS)
6. Cheers (NBC)
7. Winter Olympics Wednesday (ABC)
8. Murder, She Wrote (CBS)
9. Winter Olympics Thursday (ABC)