The Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, sure . . .
But "CBS Evening News With Dan Rather" finish second in the weekly network news race? . . .
After 212 straight weeks in first place -- stretching back to the week ending May 7, 1982 -- the CBS show has fallen to "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" by the slimmest of margins, one-tenth of a Nielsen rating point (or about 86,000 TV homes around the country) . . .
A week ago, NBC finished third, behind CBS and ABC . . .
For the week ending May 30, NBC was first with a 10.0 Nielsen rating (representing 8.59 million homes) and a 22 percent audience share, compared with a 9.9/22 (or 8.504 million) for CBS and a 9.2/20 (or 7.90 million) for "ABC World News Tonight With Peter Jennings" . . .
CBS News' official explanation: the loss of seven West Coast markets and changes in time slots at 14 other affiliates for last Thursday's broadcast, when CBS aired a live NBA game between Boston and Houston in primetime . . .
Still, NBC, riding on the tide of the network's primetime popularity, had been threatening CBS for several months, tying the once and future king in shares five times recently, starting in February, and tying CBS in ratings the week ending April 4 . . .
But this was the first time NBC News had beaten CBS in the actual head count since the week ending Oct. 2, 1981 . . . while "ABC World News Tonight" last finished first the week ending April 30, 1982 . . .
CBS News President Van Gordon Sauter said yesterday, "Quite frankly, there hasn't been much anxiety here today. We're going home tonight with the score 212 to 1 . . .
"But obviously, there's going to be trench warfare between the three network news shows for the next couple of months. The fact of the matter is there's been a significant change in the Nielsen sample, and that's resulted in a great deal of churn in the numbers, with incredibly erratic switches for NBC and ABC lately, while we've remained fundamentally stable in the ratings. It's so erratic NBC went from third to first place in seven days, so I think we're in for a sorting-out period here" . . .
(A.C. Nielsen Vice President David Wolfson yesterday said he didn't know what Sauter could be talking about. "As far as I know, our network people aren't doing anything different today than they did before") . . .
CBS executives in the past months have emphasized that the network's four owned-stations have for the most part been underperforming in local news battles and that has affected the "Evening News" numbers in those major markets . . .
Just last week, the network announced that KCBS in Los Angeles will move "CBS Evening News" in September from 7 to 6:30 p.m., putting it head-to-head with "NBC Nightly News," which moved to 6:30 in October 1984 and immediately showed a big jump in the ratings in the nation's second biggest TV market . . .
NBC News President Larry Grossman announced the ratings win yesterday at his 10 a.m. meeting. While pointing out to the staff that "the trend is clear," he reportedly confined his crowing over the win to a gentleman's "it's a good feeling" . . . Added another NBC executive: "It's a marathon -- not a sprint" . . .
NBC's official explanation compared first quarter figures in 1984 with first quarter in 1986. During that period, "NBC Nightly News" ratings rose 10 percent, "ABC World News Tonight" was up 5, and "CBS Evening News" was down 5 . . . making the point that network news audiences have grown over those two years and that NBC has picked up the additional audience . . .
Anchor Tom Brokaw (who is known as "Duncan the Wonderhorse" around NBC and I'm not sure we really want to know the reason why) was en route from Rome to New York yesterday. NBC was uncertain if he'd received the message sent to him at the Rome airport: "Operation Ratings a success. Duncan the Wonderhorse is number one" . . .
At ABC, whose "World News Tonight" has been equally competitive in recent months, a spokesman also cited figures showing ABC gains at the expense of CBS in the past year . . . while pointing out that all ratings figures have a plus or minus error rate of .5 percent, which puts ABC right in the ballpark as well . . .
(That really was an awful lot about the network news race this morning, Airwaves. Lighten up!) . . .
Also in the News
Back, by popular demand: the two-hour concert in Moscow by pianist Vladimir Horowitz that first aired on CBS' "Sunday Morning" on April 20 . . .
"Sunday Morning" will repeat it on (what else?) Sunday, June 22, starting at 9 a.m. . . .
CBS Entertainment says Valerie Bertinelli will star as Maxi Amberville, "the young, beautiful and headstrong heroine" of "I'll Take Manhattan," the eight-hour mini-series to be adapted from Judith Krantz's novel about how Maxi saves the family's publishing empire . . .
Correcting what CBS News Executive Vice President Howard Stringer called an "oversight of 25 years," the network has named "reporter/writer/producer/essayist/columnist/author/orator/humorist and raconteur" Andy Rooney a correspondent . . .
Out in Glendale, Calif., Javier Gonzales Alvarado, 29, was shot and killed by police as he aimed what they believed was a pistol . . . but which turned out to be a TV remote tuner . . .
Witnesses had reported a man standing in an intersection aiming what looked like a semiautomatic pistol at passing vehicles, according to police spokesman Christopher Loop . . .
His behavior led police to believe he was under the influence of drugs. Just before midnight Sunday, Alvarado ignored repeated orders to drop the object and when he aimed it at an approaching car, police opened fire, Loop said Monday . . . Shot several times, Alvarado died at a local hospital . . .
Actor Don MacLaughlin, who portrayed attorney Chris Hughes for 30 years on the CBS soap opera "As the World Turns," died yesterday in Los Angeles at 79 . . .
NBC had an easy win last week to nail down victories sw,-2 sk,2 ld,10 in both the Nielsen and Arbitron May ratings sweeps . . .
For the week ending June 1, NBC had a 14.5 Nielsen rating and a 26 percent audience share, compared with an 11.8/21 for CBS and an 11.7/21 for ABC . . .
Also last week: The Tony Awards on CBS tied for 26th; CBS' movie, "The Big Chill," was 33rd; CBS' "Wildest West Show of Stars" was 34th; ABC's "The Indomitable Teddy Roosevelt" was 58th; and CBS' "West 57th" finished 59th out of 64 programs rated for the week . . .