FOX SKED MOVES HELP TO BLACKEN EYE RATINGS

Tongues have done some wagging around Hollywood over how much Fox Broadcasting Co. has contributed to CBS’ ratings woes this season – a fact that takes on some additional meaning given that Fox Entertainment Group president John Matoian was previously senior VP of movies & miniseries at CBS Entertainment.

Granted, Fox doesn’t need any extra incentive to want to perform well relative to its competitors, but the industry has taken note of how some of Fox’s early success has come at the expense of CBS, where many feel Matoian never entirely received due credit for his role in the network’s success in the early ’90s.

For starters, Fox pulled together a two-hour “Beverly Hills, 90210” to blunt the premiere of CBS’ “Central Park West” on Sept. 13, then Fox aired a heavily promoted “100th episode” of “Melrose Place” in that hour the following week, dropping “CPW” numbers by another 20%.

Sources say some CBS officials were miffed because the program was technically the 100th hour of “Melrose” but not the 100th episode, since some of those episodes were counted for each of their two hours. In any event, “Central Park West” got spanked in its second outing and didn’t recover much based on results for its third episode Sept. 27.

Fox also played a part in CBS’ woes Sunday – another key night – by scoring strong numbers with its “The Simpsons” cliffhanger and two-hour premiere of “Space: Above and Beyond, ” both of which helped give “Cybill” a black eye in its new timeslot. – Brian Lowry

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