What had been touted as a heavyweight reality showdown between reality titan Mark Burnett's upcoming The Contender series and Fox's American Idol undisputed ratings champ has suddenly turned into an instant forfeit as a result of NBC's announcement that it has decided to refuse to enter the ring.

NBC announced today that despite its bravado-filled pronouncements of the last eight months, it has turned tail (albeit wisely) and decided that it no longer intends to commit both ratings suicide and fiscal disaster by attempting to air the most expensive reality series ever produced against the Fox juggernaut.

The Contender, which NBC had announced in December would premiere on Monday, February 21 and then air regularly on Tuesdays at 8PM ET/PT beginning March 1 versus Idol, will now premiere on Monday, March 7 before moving into its new regular time period beginning Wednesday, March 9 at 8PM ET/PT.

NBC's change comes in the wake of the monster ratings numbers delivered by this week's premiere of American Idol's fourth season. Many television insiders -- including Fox's own network president Gail Berman -- had doubted whether American Idol could continue its monster ratings numbers as the now "maturing" show entered its fourth season, however the debut not only outdelivered last season's premiere, but also drew the highest ratings of the entire 2004-2005 television season.

Emboldened by its success in using The Apprentice to take on CBS's top-rated CSI, NBC had first announced its intention to take on Idol during the May 2004 introduction of its 2004-05 primetime schedule.

"Mark is fully on board and is incredibly excited about the schedule," NBC President Jeff Zucker said at the time. "With regards to American Idol, we're not gonna roll over as we have the past two years. We think that in The Contender, we have the next great unscripted drama."

Apparently Zucker decided it's better to roll over and live to fight another day.