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‘Brother’ off to solid start to long summer

Eye thrives on young demo's reality appetite

“Big Brother” has gotten off to a solid start for CBS, providing hefty demo gains in some of the net’s weakest time periods.

Although the reality skein is not setting the world on fire, there are signs that embers are glowing. And this series — which will air five nights a week throughout the summer — is truly a marathon, and figures to save its best ratings legs for later in the race.

For starters, though, “Big Brother” was the most-watched program in its time period on both Thursday (11.58 million viewers) and Friday (prelim 8.9 million), according to Nielsen, and also won in some key demos. Saturday’s one-hour recap hour didn’t fare as well, slipping to third in viewers (prelim 6.5 million) and adults 25-54 (2.7/10), while rising to second in adults 18-49 (2.5/10) and adults 18-34 (2.1/9).

While there was a huge dropoff in viewers from the skein’s opening-night, post-“Survivor” premiere (22.45 million), there are several factors to consider when assessing its opening performances as a stand-alone, stripped series.

First, it’s airing on CBS’ three weakest nights (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). And the 8 o’clock hour, in particular, has been toughest for CBS to crack this season and traditionally has proven toughest for the nets to attract young adults during the summer.

Throw in a huge turnout at the box office for the very young-skewing “Scary Movie,” and you can understand why “Big Brother’s” opening weekend was anything but typical.

A better indication of the series’ ratings potential figures to come beginning this week. Tonight’s episode marks the first of 12 full weeks of “Big Brother,” which is skedded to crown its winner on Sept. 30.

As for “Brother’s” demo dint, Thursday’s half-hour seg won in adults 25-54 (4.6/15) and placed second to NBC’s “Friends” in adults 18-49 (4.4/16 vs. 4.9/17) — more than doubling CBS’ time period average this season in the demo (2.1) and delivering the Eye net’s biggest rating in the demo with series programming since February 1995 (“Due South”).

And in adults 18-34, the 4.3/16 was the net’s best series showing since April 1994 (“Christy”) and a whopping 231% improvement over its season average (1.4). (Of course, that season average came with “Diagnosis Murder” — the oldest-skewing show in primetime.)

“Big Brother” did very well on Friday, according to prelims, winning its half-hour by 4 shares in homes, by 5 shares in adults 18-49 and by 3 shares in adults 18-34. Its adults 18-34 rating (3.1/14) is a 63% improvement on the net’s season average (1.9/6).

Elsewhere on the weekend, it was a victory for freaks and geeks of the world, when NBC’s mini-marathon of three episodes of the canceled “Freaks and Geeks” posted a ratings victory.

The Peacock won the night by 1 share in adults 18-49 and by 4 shares in adults 18-34, according to prelims.

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