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Smart edges out Lynch in network ratings battle
( 2003-11-11 09:04) (Agencies)

In a highly publicized network ratings battle between two young blonds in distress, teen abductee Elizabeth Smart beat out Iraqi-captured Army private Jessica Lynch -- but not by much, according to ratings figures released on Monday.

The CBS television movie "The Elizabeth Smart Story" on Sunday night averaged nearly 15.7 million viewers, compared with 14.9 million for NBC's rival docudrama "Saving Jessica Lynch," according to preliminary figures issued by Nielsen Media Research.

CBS achieved its modest victory in the closely watched November "sweeps" showdown despite a half-hour late start in the telecast of its Elizabeth Smart movie due to a football overrun earlier in the evening.

Given that the two films were pretty evenly matched in terms of media hype going into their prime-time clash, the outcome suggested CBS may have benefited as much from viewer fatigue with Iraqi subject stories as from interest in Smart's ordeal. Both movies drew mixed reviews.

But the two programs fought to a draw in the ratings battle for adults younger than 50, with both scoring a 5.4 rating in the bellwether 18-to-49 demographic. That's the best showing for a movie broadcast on any network since ABC's airing last November of the Tim Allen (news) comedy "The Santa Clause."

The CBS film recounted the kidnapping of the young Elizabeth, then 14, from the point of view of her parents, Ed and Lois, who cooperated in the production of the movie, focusing on their testy relations with police and the press. The Utah girl's nine months in captivity at the hands of a homeless street preacher received only occasional glimpses.

Likewise, the true hero of NBC's movie was not Lynch, the West Virginia-bred Army private badly wounded and taken prisoner when her supply unit was ambushed in Iraq (news - web sites), but the Iraqi lawyer who risked his neck to inform U.S. soldiers of her whereabouts.

Lynch, who signed a $1 million book deal with Knopf for rights to her story, chose not to participate in the NBC docudrama. Her book, "I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story," is due out Tuesday.

NBC instead acquired rights to the memoir written by Mohammed al-Rehaief, the man who led U.S. troops to the Iraqi hospital where Lynch was held and who ultimately was granted U.S. political asylum with his family.

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