Fox's O'Reilly Nearly Edges Brian Williams

NBC's 'Rock Center' drops like one.

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It's bad enough that Brian Williams' new NBC show Rock Center didn't do better in it's second airing Monday than the dismal show it replaced—Playboy Club—but now a potential killer Nielsen stat has emerged: Fox's prime time hit The O'Reilly Factor had virtually the same number of viewers.

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Why that's bad: Williams' show was well-hyped, Monday's show included an appearance by star Tina Fey. Plus, Fox is in about 98 million homes while NBC has far greater penetration with about 115 million homes to draw viewers from.

The facts: Williams drew in 3.46 million viewers for his show that airs in the 10 p.m. prime time slot. O'Reilly, who airs in the primetime slot of 8 p.m., attracted 3.4 million viewers. That's a difference of just 60,000 viewers. And his show was so lacking in headliners that Fox isn't even promoting it on their website.

Granted, the shows were not head to head, but the fact that O'Reilly's numbers virtually equalled Williams may be proof that cable has finally reached viewer parity with network TV.

[Read Poll: Fox, O'Reilly most trusted news sources.]

TV execs are keeping a keen eye on Rock Center's magazine format to see if it will really work. And if shows like O'Reilly beat it, then some see a major change in the format.

The critics are taking notice. USA Today said, "Rock not solid. NBC's Brian Williams newsmagazine Rock Center bowed to a low 4.1 million viewers Monday, worse than canceled drama The Playboy Club's opener did in that slot. This week's second episode drew 3.5 million."

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