NBC claims sweeps win over Fox

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With one night left in the November sweeps, NBC executives predict they
will win the key adults 18-49 crown over Fox and admitted they need help with
their weekend prime time schedule.

NBC West Coast President Scott Sassa told reporters
Wednesday that researchers at NBC predict the network will finish with a 5.1
rating in adults 18-49, with Fox averaging a second-place 5.0 rating in the
demo.

NBC got a record performance from a celebrity version of Fear Factor Tuesday night and executives say they are counting on strong results Wednesday with The West Wing and Law & Order.

If NBC does win-out, it will be the network's seventh
consecutive sweeps victory in demographic.

"All of the networks have premiered their shows so now we know, despite all of the dire predictions that this would be the end of NBC's great run, we are actually at a better and stronger competitive position than last year."

NBC will finish the sweeps down 10% in the 18-49 demo
from last November and Sassa says a lot of that has to do with the network's
weekend programming.

"Where we need to improve and we are quite open on this, is Saturday and Sunday, we are down 24% and that's what dragged us down that 10%," Sassa said.

Zucker also said decisions on the future of newcomers Inside Schwartz, U.C. and Emeril will be determined within the next four to six
weeks.

All three shows are returning to NBC's schedule over the next two weeks.

"We felt under no pressure to make any quick decisions, we have often been accused of quick-triggers and getting rid of shows too quickly and I think obviously the strength of our schedule has given us the flexibility of not having to make these quick decisions."

As for Friends, NBC executives
say whether the show comes back for another season next fall is up to the cast.

"They have to decide whether or not they want to come back, they know how much money they can make, it's a lot of money and they just have to decide whether they want to come back," Sassa said. Zucker added, "Of course we would love to have them back."

On Weakest Link, nearly every episode will be themed or have celebrities from here on out and Zucker says the game show will be back on NBC's schedule next season.

For midseason, NBC plans to premiere three comedies, including former Seinfeld co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfuss' new series after the Olympics in February.
- Joe Schlosser

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