With Ed Bradley’s Michael Jackson interview on Sunday, “60 Minutes” returned to a place it once found familiar — first place in the TV ratings. Some 18.8 million people watched Jackson defend himself against molestation charges, according to Nielsen Media Research.
That wasn’t a blockbuster; Jackson’s interview with British journalist Martin Bashir drew 27 million on ABC last February. TV viewership overall was down during a holiday week and viewers may be suffering from Jackson fatigue.
But it was enough to make it the most-watched show of the week. Only Brett Favre’s TD-throwing spree against the Oakland Raiders on “Monday Night Football” was close.
The venerable newsmagazine has spent whole seasons as TV’s most popular show. But it hadn’t been TV’s most-watched show during any week of the TV season since November 1998.
“60 Minutes” generally has one of the oldest audiences on television, and the Jackson interview drew the newsmagazine’s best ratings among viewers aged 18-to-49 in nearly four years.
The show has been undergoing a renaissance in founding executive producer Don Hewitt’s final year at the helm. Its viewership is up 14 percent over last year and the show has spent five of the past six weeks in Nielsen’s top 10.
It enabled CBS to continue its dominance of the TV season, averaging 9.7 million viewers (6.2 rating, 11 share). Helped by football and its “Dreamkeeper” miniseries, ABC finished second with 8.1 million viewers (5.1, 9) and won for the first time this season among the 18-to-49 demographic that advertisers love.
NBC averaged 7.3 million viewers (4.7, 9), Fox had 6 million (3.7, 7), the WB 2.7 million (1.8, 3), UPN 2.6 million (1,0, 3) and Pax TV 930,000 (0.6, 1).
NBC’s “Nightly News” won the evening news ratings race, averaging 11.2 million viewers (7.3 rating, 14 share). ABC’s “World News Tonight” had 9.9 million (6.8, 13) and the “CBS Evening News” had 7.9 million (5.2, 10).
A ratings point represents 1,084,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation’s estimated 108.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.