For the second straight week, "CSI: New York" steamrolled "L&O" in head-to-head competition, snaring 19.5 million viewers to "L&O's" 12.9 million eyeballs.
It's the first time since 1992 that a competing show has put a dent into "L&O," which, until now, was impervious to anything thrown up against it.
Wednesday was also the first time that "L&O" finished third in the coveted adults 18-49 demo — behind "CSI: New York" and ABC's "Wife Swap." (search)
CBS also had the advantage of strong lead-ins for "CSI: New York" the past two weeks ("The Amazing Race" finale and a "CSI" repeat).
"NBC certainly is not going to move 'Law & Order' — I don't think it's going to beat 'CSI: New York,' but it's not dead. It's still getting an audience," says industry analyst Marc Berman of Mediaweek.
"The problem is that it looks like the whole ['L&O'] franchise is springing a leak since 'SVU' and 'Criminal Intent' are also down.
"But NBC won't move the show because there's nothing else they can put in that timeslot right now," Berman says. "They're going to have to ride the tide and wait and see if 'CSI: New York' is the real deal. I think it is."
"CSI: New York," the second spinoff from the original "CSI," added 1 million viewers from its premiere week — an ominous sign for "L&O," since most new shows traditionally lose about 20 percent of their premiere audience.
"L&O," which has undergone numerous cast changes throughout the years without missing a beat, premiered this season with Dennis Farina (search) replacing Jerry Orbach (search), who's moved to yet another "L&O" spinoff, "Law & Order: Trial By Jury."
"NBC has so many other timeslot problems, they can't mess this up," Berman said of the Wednesday night "L&O" dilemma.
"I think both shows can co-exist — but nobody is going to beat 'CSI: New York.' "
" 'Law & Order' continues to be an incredible brand," NBC said in a statement. "There's no doubt that this is a great night for network television."