CBS takes the lead

CBS knocked NBC out of the top spot in the weekly Nielsens for the first time since the fall season began on Sept. 24. Although NBC took the top two spots with its Thursday-night Must-See TV shows E.R. and Friends, it faltered in the 9:00 hour, which CBS grabbed with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the third-ranked show for the week.

In all, CBS won half of the top-ten spots, NBC won four, and Fox took one. ABC failed to place a single show in the top ten for the second week in a row.

Adding to broadcasters’ difficulties in the wake of an advertising curtailment, analysts noted that the number of viewers watching the networks last week was down 6 percent from the same week a year ago.

Some analysts suggested that viewers were turning to cable channels instead in order to follow the latest news about the war in Afghanistan and the anthrax attacks at home.

CBS averaged an 8.7 rating and a 14 share for the week, followed closely by NBC with an 8.6/14. Fox was third — thanks mostly to its coverage of the first two games of the World Series — averaging a 7.1/11. (Saturday’s opener, however, turned out to be the lowest-rated World Series game in history.) ABC was a distant fourth with a 6.6/11.

The top ten shows of the week according to Nielsen Research:

1. E.R. NBC, 17.3/27; 2. Friends, NBC, 16.1/25; 3. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 15.7/23; 4. World Series Game 2 (Sunday), Fox, 15.0/23; 5. Law and Order, NBC, 14.4/24; 6. The West Wing, NBC, 14.1/21; 7. Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 13.7/20; 8. Judging Amy, CBS, 12.1/20; 8. Survivor: Africa, CBS, 12.1/19; 10. JAG, CBS, 11.9/19.