CBS adds 1-hour reality seg to Wed. sked

“Big Brother” is getting even bigger.

CBS has decided to expand the reality strip to six nights per week, adding an hourlong edition of the skein Wednesdays at 9 p.m. following the red-hot “Survivor.” The extra night will bow next week, with newsmags expected to fill the 10 p.m. slot for the rest of the summer.

Wednesday’s “Big” will be the live, Julie Chen-hosted edition in which one member of the house is either marked for banishment or expelled. CBS had been running the live hour on Thursdays; a half-hour seg of “Big” will now air Thursday at 8. Various CBS laffers will fill the 8:30 p.m. half-hour.

Despite mostly harsh reviews, “Big Brother” has actually had some solid success luring younger auds into the Eye’s tent. Monday’s seg won its time period in adults 18-49 and women 25-54, while ranking as the night’s biggest draw for viewers 18-34.

While clearly not as big a hit as “Survivor,” CBS execs are cautiously optimistic about the early line on “Big Brother,” particularly since it represents a huge improvement over the net’s usual summer performance with repeats.

“We’re pretty happy,” one Eye exec said. “We sit and look at these demo numbers every day and giggle.”

Indeed, the combo of “Big” and “Survivor” has been a huge boost to CBS’s efforts to get younger. Net was up a whopping 35% in adults 18-49 and 73% with viewers 18-34 last week vs. the same frame a year ago.

Critics have complained about dubious production values on “Big” and the lack of hugely compelling storylines so far. But CBS execs believe the Endemol-produced skein will continue to pick up steam in the coming weeks, particularly with a post- “Survivor” berth.

“As (the housemates) are in there longer, there’ll be more juicy stuff to put on the screen,” one CBS insider said.

The Webcast of “Big Brother” may be an even bigger success story. America Online, the Eye’s Web partner on the projects, said Tuesday the “Big” site has recorded the largest sustained Webcast viewership in the history of the online service.

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