NEW YORK — The second-season premiere of Fox's "The Simpsons" beat NBC's "The Cosby Show" by more than half a ratings point, overnight ratings showed today. But NBC officials were not about to have a cow, man.
When the national Nielsens come in, Bill Cosby's series "in all likelihood will win," said Preston Beckman, NBC vice president for audience research.
"The Simpsons," whose reruns have been clobbered by NBC's hit series since the new season began last month, averaged a 19.9 rating in the 24-city overnight ratings when it began its second season Thursday night.
Cosby's show, which began its seventh season last month and has been a perennial ratings winner, received a 19.3 rating.
The first half-hour of a new "Columbo" episode on ABC was third in the Thursday ratings battle, averaging an 11.5. A CBS movie, "Dark Avenger," was left far behind with a 5.2.
The 24-city overnight ratings represent more than 47% of the nation's 93.1 million TV househoulds, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The high "Simpsons" ratings were anticipated by NBC, Beckman said, both because of heavy press coverage of the show's return and heavy promotion of the show this week by Fox Broadcasting Co.