Overall, NBC has a 1-million viewer edge, thanks largely to its Winter Olympics coverage. It also has more young viewers with higher incomes, although CBS has made significant gains among that audience.
Of the top 20 shows, according to recent Nielson figures, NBC has 10 and CBS has nine. The other networks, ABC, WB, Fox and UPN, are far behind.
The sorest spots for CBS in the ratings brawl involves two programs that rank No. 1 in total viewership, the long-running daytime soap "The Young and the Restless" and the smash prime-time drama "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," which premiered this season.
NBC, in various promotional ads, said it held the No. 1 spot at night with the perennial drama "ER," which scored highest with audiences between 18 and 49 but placed second in overall viewership.
"You could say you have the No.1 drama, but that could be among men who shop at Costco," sniped David Poltrack, CBS' executive vice president for research.
NBC makes no apologies, insisting that the demographic ranking of a program is far more important than the total number of TVs tuned to a show.
As Zucker put it, "If advertisers wanted to reach viewers who were wearing Depends, they would buy [ads] on "The Young and the Restless."