NBC must see Eye rivalry

'Friends' vs. 'Survivor,' 'CSI' vs. 'Grace' spur net battle

This may be the 200-channel era, but if you’re an adult under 55, there’s a good chance you were watching one of two networks on Thursday night: NBC or CBS.

The Peacock’s “Friends” and the Eye’s “CSI” both drew more than 30 million viewers Thursday as the night’s two-network battle intensified. Friday, on the other hand, saw few fireworks, although CBS drama “Hack” received solid sampling.

According to Nielsen, NBC remained on top Thursday, but its piece of the pie continues to shrink. Net was off a modest 5% year-to-year on the night (to a first-place 12.4/29 in adults 18-49), but CBS (which didn’t have “Survivor” on the opening Thursday a year ago) surged by 61% to an 8.7/21 and finished only 2.1 million viewers behind NBC for the night in overall audience.

For CBS, it was its most competitive Thursday premiere finish since the 1990-91 season. Still, NBC took the night by 15 shares in adults 18-34, 8 shares in adults 18-49 and 6 shares in adults 25-54.

Combine 50 share

Combined the nets accounted for a 50 share in both adults 18-49 and 25-54 and a 51 share in adults 18-34.

NBC’s “Friends” opened its season with its strongest premiere scores ever (34.01 million, 16.6/41 in A18-49), up 5% in 18-49 from last year. It did a staggering 55 share in women 18-34 and topped the other five broadcast nets combined in several categories.

CBS’ “Survivor: Thailand” (21.72m, 8.6/21 in A18-49) held up well opposite “Friends” and jumped sharply at 8:30 opposite “Scrubs” (22.31m, 10.9/26), which retained a soft 66% of its big “Friends” 18-49 aud. The Eye reality series led its 8:30 half-hour in total viewers and adults 25-54, while the second-year “Scrubs” was on top in adults 18-49 and 18-34.

“Will & Grace” opened its season at 9 for NBC by matching “CSI” in 18-49 (down 4% vs. last year) and beating it in adults 18-34. But the Eye juggernaut (30.47m, 11.5/26 in A18-49) had no problem dispensing with new Warner Bros. laffer “Good Morning Miami” (17.45m, 8.9/20) at 9:30. “Good Morning Miami” retained an OK 81% of its “Will & Grace” lead-in.

New highs for ‘CSI’

“CSI” soared to new highs across the board, scoring a dominant victory for its hour in adults 25-54 (12.0/26). At 10, net’s “Without a Trace” (16.21m, 5.8/14 in A18-49) retained just 50% of “CSI’s” 18-49 aud — down from “The Agency’s” 55% hold last year — but still delivered the net’s most competitive finish in the hour since the week “ER” premiered in September 1994.

“Without a Trace” was a distant second to NBC’s “ER” (26.72m, 5.8/14 in A18-49), which was down 10% from its year-ago opener but still delivered the night’s second highest 18-49 score (behind “Friends”).

ABC’s “Push, Nevada” was snowed under in its second Thursday outing, falling another 46% week-to-week in 18-49 and placing fifth for its hour (1.3/3). ABC did get a decent showing from “Monk” at 8 (7.06m, 1.7/4) but for the night still finished behind UPN’s “WWE Smackdown” (6 million, 2.4/6) in total viewers and most demos.

Fox ran third Thursday with a repeat of “Rush Hour” (6.21m, 2.5/6).

Easy Friday win for NBC

NBC scored a rather easy victory on Friday, according to Nielsen prelims, finishing 4 shares ahead of Fox, ABC and CBS, which were in a close battle for second in adults 18-49.

“Law & Order: SVU” (prelim 14.6m, 5.2/16) dominated the 10 p.m. hour and matched its year-ago 18-49 preem. From 8 to 10, “Dateline” led in total viewers (10.5m) and demos.

CBS, which was second in total viewers Friday, saw new vigilante taxicab drama “Hack” (prelim 12.6m, 3.3/11 in A18-49) finish on top for its hour in viewers and second to “Dateline” in 18-49. Big Ticket/CBS Prods. series was up 43% in 18-49 vs. the weak “That’s Life” in the hour a year ago.

Despite those gains at 9, though, the Eye’s new 10 p.m. Universal drama entry, “Robbery Homicide Division,” fell to third place (prelim 8.6m, 2.6/8) — 13% behind what “48 Hours” delivered in 18-49 a year ago (3.0/9). And at 8, preem of “48 Hours Investigates” was a sluggish third in total viewers (prelim 7.1m) and fourth in 18-49 (1.9/7), 16% behind last year’s “Ellen Show” and “Danny.”

‘John Doe’ dips 30%

Fox’s “John Doe,” which delivered strong numbers with its preem opposite lesser competish a week earlier, fell a surprising 30% week-to-week in 18-49 (prelim 3.1/10 vs. 4.4/15) as viewers moved over to CBS to sample “Hack.” At 8, “Firefly” (prelim 2.3/9 in A18-49) was off 23%.

ABC’s new “That Was Then” delivered an anemic perf with its bow (prelim 4.3m, 1.9/6 in A18-49), failing to take advantage of a first-place lead-in from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (2.9/11 in 18-49) and managing just half the demo score of “Thieves” in the hour last season.

No new series bowed on Saturday, which saw ABC’s movie “The Green Mile” (prelim 10.2m, 3.8/13) win by most key measures.

Fox’s reality staples “Cops” and “America’s Most Wanted” ran second in demos and were flat with last year, while CBS’ new lineup was off 25% year-to-year in 18-49 and tied with NBC’s repeat movie “Kiss the Girls” for third in the demo (prelim 2.0/7).

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