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Tsunami coverage boosts news ratings

David Bauder Associated Press

A hunger for news following the disastrous tsunami was evident in last week’s Nielsen ratings.

“Dateline NBC” finished just short of Nielsen Media Research’s top 10 for its Sunday broadcast, which featured reports from Thailand and Sri Lanka. And an ABC “Primetime Live” special on the disaster was the most-watched prime-time show on Dec. 29.

The story also helped the evening news broadcasts, which normally would expect a slow week between Christmas and New Year’s. Instead, the “CBS Evening News” and ABC’s “World News Tonight” were both up 12 percent in viewers over this season’s average, and NBC’s “Nightly News” was up 8 percent.

The second-most popular prime-time show last week was “60 Minutes” on CBS, which tried but failed to finish a tsunami piece in time for the broadcast. The newsmagazine had a profile of the Internet search service Google.

NBC, which desperately needs some good news in prime time, saw 16.1 million people tune in to Monday’s premiere of the supernatural drama “Medium.” Those were the best numbers for an NBC drama premiere since “Ed” in 2000.

For last week, CBS was on top with an average of 10.2 million viewers in prime time (6.6 rating, 11 share). ABC was second with 9.7 million viewers (6.2, 11), and won handily among the 18- to 49-year-old demographic that advertisers love.

NBC averaged 8.5 million viewers (5.6, 10), Fox 5.5 million (3.4, 6), UPN 2.7 million (1.9, 3) and the WB 2.2 million (1.5, 3).

A ratings point represents 1,096,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 109.6 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

The top 10 shows for the week ending Sunday: “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” CBS, 18.3 million viewers; “60 Minutes,” CBS, 16.4 million; “NFL Monday Night Football: Philadelphia at St. Louis,” ABC, 16.4 million; “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” NBC, 14.8 million; “Everybody Loves Raymond,” CBS, 14.8 million; “Without a Trace,” CBS, 14.3 million; “NFL Monday Showcase,” ABC, 14.2 million; “Crossing Jordan,” NBC, 14.1 million; “Two and a Half Men,” CBS, 13.5 million; “CSI: Miami,” CBS, 13.4 million.

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