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Reality slugfest

Last Wednesday night's reality showdown between CBS and NBC was just the latest tit-for-tat scheduling duel between the two sides, as CBS attempted to hurt the launch of NBC's Lost
and NBC took a swipe at CBS's premiere of The Amazing Race.

Both networks attracted stronger than normal summer ratings, but some industry analysts believe executive egos may have gotten in the way of possibly much better performances for both premieres.

And CBS, which used a special edition of Big Brother 2
to lessen the impact of Lost, will again use its summer reality series to counteract another big NBC event. On Sept. 20, CBS's Big Brother 2's finale will go head-to-head against the wedding of Chandler and Monica on NBC's Friends.

"There are a lot of egos involved," says Stacey Lynn Koerner, Initiative Media's senior vice president and director of broadcast research. "In a way, it's really kind of silly. If those shows were on their own and not put up against the other, they'd do a lot better. But it's like they each have something to prove that they are strong enough to be real competition. That's OK, but I'm not so sure it's good for the viewers or for the networks either."

Last winter, shortly after Jeff Zucker was named the head of entertainment at NBC, CBS put Survivor 2
on Thursday nights to air against Friends.

Zucker countered with super-sized episodes of Friends
and other Thursday-night stunts.

"I'm sure both shows would have done a little better," Zucker says of last week's reality showdown. "Look, we all are competitive, and we all want to win, and I think we all like to play the game. All is fair in love and war. I have nothing but respect for the folks at CBS."

Of the rivalry, CBS Executive Vice President of program planning and scheduling Kelly Kahl says, "They've got their schedule, and we've got ours."

The reality showdown last Wednesday actually turned into something of a tie. CBS's special
Big Brother
episode at 8 p.m. ET/PT took down the debut of NBC's Lost
in households (6.9/12 vs. 6.1/10), total viewers (11.0 million vs. 9.4 million) and adults 18-49 (4.7/14 vs. 4.1/12). At 9 p.m., NBC's special edition of Fear Factor
topped CBS's debut of new series The Amazing Race
in households (7.5/12 vs. 7.4/12) and in adults 18-49 (5.5/14 vs. 5.0/13). In total viewers, The Amazing Race
squeaked out a win with an 11.83 million average vs. Fear Factor's
11.81 million.

After seeing the ratings, one NBC executive said, "The Amazing Race
matters a lot more to them than Lost
does to us because it's a regular- season series, it's their 24, it's their Alias, it's their Scrubs. So hurting Amazing Race
is a far bigger deal than hurting Lost. Lost
is here and gone in six weeks.

Countered CBS's Kahl: "As far as I am concerned, we took the best punch they had, and we are still here. We didn't even go down."

The rivalry continues.