By Rachel F. Elson
Updated March 26, 2003 04:46 PM

Even with the Oscars’ record-low viewership, Sunday night’s Academy Awards telecast was enough to make ABC last week’s most-watched network.

Sunday’s Academy Awards had the smallest audience since 1974 — the first year Nielsen began tracking ratings for the show. The “glam lite” Oscars ceremony and its pre-game show, “Oscar Countdown 2003,” clocked in at the No. 1 and No. 3 spots, respectively, with 33 million and 19.5 million viewers switching off war coverage to watch the event.

Much of the news coverage of the Iraq conflict — which jammed up programming and threw both schedules and ratings into disarray — aired commercial free, the Associated Press notes, and so it does not appear in the Nielsen Media Research rankings.

The Oscars scored a rare prime-time victory for ABC, whose only other top-20 show was at No. 16, with Monday night’s “ABC News Special.” FOX’s pair of “American Idol” broadcasts appeared in the No. 2 and 4 spots, giving the network 10 million viewers, and third place in the overall rankings. NBC landed in second place with shows throughout the top 20, led by hit “Friends” at No. 6.

Last week’s Top 10 shows were as follows:

1. “75th Annual Academy Awards,” ABC, 33 million viewers
2. “American Idol,” Tuesday, FOX, 21.1 million
3. “Oscar Countdown 2003,” ABC, 19.5 million
4. “American Idol,” Wednesday, FOX, 17.2 million
5. “Survivor: Amazon,” CBS, 16.4 million
6. “Friends,” NBC, 14.9 million
7. “Fear Factor,” NBC, 14.7 million
8. “Scrubs,” NBC, 14.2 million
9. “Judging Amy,” CBS, 14.2 million
10. “JAG,” CBS, 14 million