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Les Moonves: CSI Will Crush Leno At 10PM

December 10, 2008 06:33 PM EST | AP

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NEW YORK — CBS Corp. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves challenged Jay Leno to a ratings duel when the late-night talk show host moves his NBC show into a prime-time slot at 10 p.m. next fall.

"I will bet anybody who would like to bet that 'CSI: Miami' on Monday night at 10 o'clock will beat Jay by a lot. Remember that. By a lot," Moonves said Wednesday at an investor conference hosted by UBS.

Moonves said CBS was winning the ratings war on four of the five weeknights in the 10 p.m. time slot, with its shows such as "Without a Trace" and "CSI: NY."

The network also benefits from selling those shows to syndication, to overseas markets and on DVD.

"They are sold in 12 different ways," he said. "We think taking the third competitor out of the marketplace will make us even stronger in terms of all those areas."

Leno, for his part, said Tuesday that he didn't expect his nightly show to beat any other 10 p.m. show in the beginning, but would benefit from running at least 46 weeks of the year, including when other shows are in reruns.

NBC has taken a pummeling this season with lackluster new dramas such as "My Own Worst Enemy" and "Knight Rider" and a disappointing third season for "Heroes." It is seeking to pare down the costs of producing scripted shows.

Last week, NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co., laid off about 500 employees, or about 3 percent of its work force, as part of a plan to trim $500 million next year.

"Network television is all about having hit shows. We have hit shows every night of the week," Moonves said. "It remains a good business, and when the advertising markets come back in full force, it will be extremely effective for us."

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