Originally created 03/17/04

You're hired! Donald Trump is making a big difference for NBC

NEW YORK -- If Regis Philbin once "saved" ABC, Donald Trump has certain bragging rights at NBC.

In two months, "The Apprentice" has made a huge difference on Thursday nights for NBC, an evening the network was worried about because of the impending conclusion of "Friends."

Last week was typical: "The Apprentice" was No. 6 in weekly prime-time ratings, with 19.2 million viewers, despite competing against television's most popular program, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

By running "The Apprentice" for a full hour and moving "Will & Grace" to 8:30, it enables NBC to avoid its oft-repeated problem of putting two struggling comedies on the Thursday schedule.

Partly as a result, NBC has been able to win or stay competitive among viewers aged 18 to 49. For the full week, "American Idol" pushed Fox to first over NBC in that demographic.

NBC will still have to deal with a Thursday night without "Friends" next season, but Trump has made that prospect less scary. NBC has already locked up Trump to appear in two more seasons.

In what passes for an average week in TV viewing, the networks stacked up in their common pecking order: CBS in first, averaging 12 million viewers (7.8 rating, 13 share). NBC was next with 10.2 million (6.9, 11), Fox had 9.5 million (5.9, 10), ABC 7.7 million (5.1, 8), UPN 3.3 million (2.3, 4), the WB 3.2 million (2.2, 3) and Pax TV 1 million (0.7, 1).

NBC's "Nightly News" won the evening news ratings race, averaging 10.4 million viewers (7.1 rating, 14 share). ABC's "World News Tonight" had 10 million (6.9, 14) and the "CBS Evening News" had 7.5 million (5.3, 10).

A ratings point represents 1,084,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 108.4 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

Prime-time viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen Media Research for March 8-14. Listings include the week's ranking, with viewership for the week and season-to-date rankings in parentheses. An "X" in parentheses denotes a one-time-only presentation.

1. (1) "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 27.4 million viewers.

2. (2) "American Idol" (Tuesday), Fox, 24.6 million viewers.

3. (5) "Survivor: All-Stars," CBS, 22.6 million viewers.

4. (3) "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 22 million viewers.

5. (12) "Without a Trace," CBS, 19.7 million viewers.

6. (7) "The Apprentice," NBC, 19.2 million viewers.

7. (11) "Everybody Loves Raymond," CBS, 16.7 million viewers.

8. (4) "Friends," NBC, 16.6 million viewers.

9. (18) "Cold Case," CBS, 15.9 million viewers.

10. (14) "Will & Grace," NBC, 15.6 million viewers.

11. (9) "CSI: Miami," CBS, 15.4 million viewers.

12. (28) "Fear Factor," NBC, 15.2 million viewers.

13. (15) "Two and a Half Men," CBS, 14.7 million viewers.

14. (21) "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," NBC, 14.6 million viewers.

15. (X) "Princess Diana: Secret Tapes 2," NBC, 14.2 million viewers.

16. (13) "Law & Order," NBC, 13 million viewers.

17. (23) "Crossing Jordan," NBC, 12.8 million viewers.

18. (17) "60 Minutes," CBS, 12.5 million viewers.

19. (25) "CBS Sunday Movie: Family Sins," CBS, 12.3 million viewers.

20. (X) "Cracking Up," Fox, 11.3 million viewers.

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