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Nielsen Concedes Error In Ratings After ABC News Dispute

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NEW YORK — Nielsen Media Research has conceded making an error and is performing a recount after the company's ratings on Tuesday initially indicated that ABC's "World News" most likely had its smallest audience ever.

The dispute with Nielsen was a downer for the network after the entertainment division _ keyed by the National Basketball Association finals _ won in the prime-time ratings for the first week since September. It was ABC's most-watched week in the summer in five years, according to Nielsen.

ABC asked Nielsen for an investigation after its ratings showed "World News" averaged 6.2 million viewers last week (4.3 rating, 9 share), its worst showing since at least 1987, when Nielsen's "People Meters" technology was introduced, and probably for many years before that. The previous week, the "CBS Evening News" hit a similar low point. ABC's average did not include Tuesday and Thursday's newscast, because "World News" was pre-empted in the West those nights for the NBA finals.

The network questioned the Friday night ratings, when Nielsen said "World News" was watched by 4.1 million people, well below its Friday average of 7.3 million this year. Friday marked TV's digital transition, when analog signals were cut off and an estimated 2.5 percent of the nation's TV homes lost their TV transmissions.

News ratings are typically down in the summer, but not by that much, ABC said. Given the relatively small number of homes losing signals, ABC claimed that a loss of more than 3 million off its season average was illogical. CBS, for example, had 5.1 million viewers Friday compared to its season average of 5.8 million that night, Nielsen said.

"The numbers don't make any sense," said Jon Banner, executive producer of "World News."

Nielsen indicated that some of the ABC affiliates that had made the digital switch early were inadvertently left out of the news ratings. The company plans to issue new ratings on Wednesday, said Gary Holmes, a Nielsen spokesman. It's not immediately clear how much the error will affect ABC's ratings.

NBC's "Nightly News" averaged 8.3 million viewers last week (5.5 rating, 12 share), while the CBS "Evening News" had 5.4 million (3.7, 8).

In prime time, the last three games of the Los Angeles Lakers championship series victory over the Orlando Magic were the most-watched programs of the week.

HBO also reported that the second season premiere of "True Blood" on Sunday was seen by 3.7 million people, the most-watched original series telecast on the network since the June 2007 finale of "The Sopranos."

ABC averaged 7.3 million prime-time viewers (4.4 rating, 8 share), with second-place CBS at 6.9 million (4.6, 8). Fox had 5.1 million viewers and NBC 5 million (both 3.2, 6), My Network TV had 1.5 million (0.9, 2), the CW 1.2 million (0.8, 1) and ION Television 670,000 (0.5, 1).

Among the Spanish-language networks, Univision led with 3.3 million viewers (1.7 rating, 3 share), Telemundo had 1.2 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura 740,000 (0.4, 1) and Azteca 150,000 (0.1, 0).

A ratings point represents 1,145,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.5 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of June 8-14, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: NBA Finals, Game 4: L.A. Lakers vs. Orlando, ABC, 15.96 million; NBA Finals, Game 3: L.A. Lakers vs. Orlando, ABC, 14.2 million; NBA Finals, Game 5: L.A. Lakers vs. Orlando, ABC, 14.17 million; "NBA Trophy Presentation," ABC, 13.48 million; "The Mentalist" (Tuesday, 9 p.m.), CBS, 11.62 million; "NCIS," CBS, 11.05 million; "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 9.52 million; "The Mentalist" (Thursday, 10 p.m.), CBS, 8.94 million; "48 Hours Mystery" (Tuesday), CBS, 8.85 million, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 8.74 million.

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ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox and My Network TV are units of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by General Electric Co. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.

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