With six weeks to go in the 2002-2003 TV season, it seems CBS can’t lose. Even though its top show, ”CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” was beaten this week by NBC’s ”ER,” even though producer Mark Burnett beat his own ”Survivor” this week with NBC’s ”The Apprentice,” and even though the NCAA basketball championship game hit an all-time ratings low – the Eye network still pulled out a ratings win for the week, and it’s almost certain to finish the year as the most-watched network.
The week’s biggest draw, according to Nielsen, was the spectacle of ”American Idol” contestants mangling Elton John songs last Tuesday (the episode drew 23.5 million viewers). ”The Apprentice” was No. 2 in total viewers (22 million) but No. 1 in 18-to-49-year-olds, giving The Donald one more thing to brag about. ”Survivor” was third (20.8 million), followed by Wednesday’s ”Idol” and ”ER.” ”CSI” was an unusually low sixth (19.5 million). The NCAA finals drew just 17.1 million fans, but that was enough for a No. 7 finish. Fox’s critical ugly duckling ”The Swan” debuted at No. 8 (15 million), though its timeslot competitor, ABC’s season premiere of ”The Bachelor,” did well to draw 11.1 million (20th place). Rounding out the top 10 were NBC’s ”Friends” (ninth place) and CBS’ ”Without a Trace” (10th).
CBS averaged just shy of 11 million viewers for the week. NBC was second with 10.2 million. Fox, despite ”Idol” and ”Swan,” finished third with 8.6 million. ABC, which scored a No. 17 hit with ”The Nick & Jessica Variety Hour” (11.5 million) and landed a rare four shows in the top 20, still finished fourth with 7.7 million. Among the netlets, the WB earned a rare victory, edging UPN 2.7 million to 2.66 million.