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With CBS close to losing the total viewers race for the first time in five years, CEO Leslie Moonves called Fox's ratings hit "American Idol" a "monster" and urged somebody to "kill that show."
"While we're in repeats, 'American Idol' continues to be a monster," Moonves said Thursday at the McGraw-Hill Media Summit in New York City. "It's a phenomenon. If somebody would kill that show, I'd really appreciate it. But it's a national phenomenon, and it continues to do extremely well. It's tough to compete with it."
Fox has won the past three broadcast seasons among the adults 18-49 demographic and is expected to win this season as well. CBS has many crime procedurals popular with older audiences and has won among total viewers the past six seasons.
But after the writers strike gutted networks that rely heavily on scripted programming, Fox's reality-driven slate with such shows as "Idol" and "The Moment of Truth" has outpaced competitors this season by a wider margin than ever. A couple weeks ago, Fox surpassed CBS among total viewers. Fox currently averages about 11.5 million to CBS' 10.6, ABC's 9.4, NBC's 8.5 and the CW's 2.6.
Even with CBS' scripted programming retuning to the air in the coming weeks, Fox's first-place position is expected to hold through the conclusion of the May sweep.
Moonves acknowledged CBS wasn't going to be able to overtake its rival.
"Yeah, we'll finish No. 2," he said.
James Hibberd reported from Los Angeles; Paul J. Gough reported from New York.