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June 26, 2009

ABC's Fawcett coverage leads Jackson news specials

Fawcett And the most-watched news program amid all the Michael Jackson specials airing Thursday night was ... "Farrah Fawcett: Her Life, Her Loves, Her Legacy."

With coverage of the singer's passing generating massive coverage on the cable news networks and online, ABC's Barbara Walters special on Fawcett was the highest-rated and most-watched news show on broadcast last night, placing second in the adult demo only to Fox's usual Thursday winner "So You Think You Can Dance."

Fox won the night with a repeat and "Dance" (6.8 million viewers, 2.5 preliminary adults 18-49 rating), the competition series taking a ratings hit amid all the breaking news. "Dance" producer Nigel Lythgoe paid tribute to Jackson, Fawcett and Ed McMahon on the show, and Fox has also announced it will air an encore of the two-hour Jackson-themed episode from last season's "American Idol" on Monday night. The episode included the top 13 contestants performing.

ABC and CBS tied for second place in the demo, with ABC starting with "Samantha Who?" (3.7 million, 1.0) and "In the Motherhood" (2.7 million, 0.7) returning to their 8 p.m.-hour time periods. A 9 p.m. "20/20" special (5.7 million, 1.7) on "The Life and Death of Michael Jackson" tied NBC News' "Dateline" coverage in the same hour.

At 10 p.m., ABC News ran its previously announced special "Farrah Fawcett: Her Life, Her Loves, Her Legacy" (8.2 million, 2.3). Unlike the other hastily put-together news specials that evening, ABC's Fawcett tribute was planned and promoted in advance, and merely coincided with the day of her passing.

CBS aired repeats leading into a 10 p.m. CBS News special on Jackson (7.6 million, 1.9).

NBC aired repeats followed by a two-hour "Dateline" (5.5 million, 1.7) on Jackson and Fawcett.

Online: Jackson news dominated Web buzz. Nielsen says the news of his death caused "spikes in traffic, overwhelming social networks such as Twitter and Facebook with bursts of information and updates from millions of users. In comparison, discussions of Jackson far exceeded those of the swine flu scare as well as the inauguration of President Obama."

In late night: ABC's “Nightline" (5.3 million), which was devoted to Jackson coverage, bested CBS’ “Late Show with David Letterman”(4.4 million) and NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” (3.9 million).
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