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Local Nielsen ratings snapshot (Thurs., June 25) -- cable news numbers spike for Jackson death coverage, but broadcast network viewers prefer Farrah fare

Thursday's deaths of Farrah Fawcett and -- out of nowhere -- Michael Jackson -- sent the cable news networks into overdrive while three of the four major broadcast networks preempted regular prime-time programming for post-mortems.

Although Jackson's passing was the stunner, ABC's 9 p.m. Barbara Walters special on Fawcett and lover Ryan O'Neal easily was prime-time's most-watched program in D-FW.

The network's Farrah Fawcett: Her Lives, Her Loves, Her Legacy, had 212,576 viewers, handily outdrawing the network's preceding one-hour The Life and Death of Michael Jackson (126,217 viewers).

CBS' same-named Life and Death of Michael Jackson also attracted 126,217 viewers opposite ABC's 9 p.m. Fawcett special.

NBC mixed and mingled the two deaths in its two-hour Dateline special, which averaged 132,860 viewers overall.

Fox stuck with its scheduled 7 to 9 p.m. lineup of a Bones repeat (79,716 viewers) and So You Think You Can Dance (112,931 viewers). Fox4's local 9 p.m. newscast improved to 126,217 viewers, tying CBS' Jackson special.

ABC's Nightline, also devoted to Jackson coverage, easily bested the first half-hours of NBC's Tonight Show and CBS' Late Show. The tallies: Nightline (179,361 viewers); Tonight (93,002); Late Show (59,787).

In the cable universe, CNN and Fox News Channel fought for Jackson coverage supremacy, with MSNBC for the most part well behind. Here are the hour-by-hour total viewer breakdowns from 5 to 10 p.m., when all three networks went wall-to-wall Michael.

5 p.m.
FNC and CNN -- 79,716 each
MSNBC -- 19,929

6 p.m.
CNN -- 93,002
FNC -- 79,716
MSNBC -- 39,858

7 p.m.
CNN -- 73,073
FNC -- 66,430
MSNBC -- 53,144

8 p.m.
FNC -- 93,002
CNN -- 79,716
MSNBC -- 59,787

9 p.m.
CNN -- 79,716
FNC -- 66,430
MSNBC -- 19,929

The daily local news derby results went like this. WFAA8 took the 10 p.m. golds in both total viewers and 25-to-54-year-olds, the main advertiser target audience for news programming. The station's late night newscast also had Thursday's highest total viewer count, with 252,434.

WFAA8 also swept the 6 p.m. newscast competitions. And NBC5 did likewise at both 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.