CBS' reality cyclone washes out competition

“Survivor” has extinguished the tribal torches at all the nets now.

With “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” banished from the island of Wednesday for the first time in three weeks, the Eye net’s reality adventure series surged even higher this week, posting the best demos on record for any CBS series in the time period.

The third edition of the 13-week summer series continued its amazing ascent, building by 28% in viewers (23.25 million vs. 18.12), by 25% in adults 18-49 (9.4/29 vs. 6.1/20) and by 22% in adults 18-34 (9.3/31 vs. 7.6/28) compared with the previous week, which itself was up considerably over the premiere seg.

Combined competish crushed

CBS won the 8 p.m. hour by 16 shares in homes, by 21 shares in adults 18-49 and by 24 shares in adults 18-34. In fact, “Survivor” topped the other five broadcast nets’ combined scores by 12% in adults 18-49 (9.4 vs. 8.4) and by 13% in both adults 25-54 (9.9 vs. 8.8) and adults 18-34 (9.3 vs. 8.2).

In adults 18-49, “Survivor” rated higher than every CBS series that has aired in the Wednesday at 8 hour since Nielsen began tracking the demo in 1987. It’s also the best score for an episode of any CBS series on any night since “Chicago Hope” in January 1996.

The absence of “Millionaire” seemed to boost the numbers of women 18-34 most, as this week’s seg rocketed by 30% compared with the previous week (10.0 vs. 7.7). And in total viewers, where “Millionaire” put up a good fight for two weeks, “Survivor” had no competition: The CBS entry topped second-place “Dateline” on NBC by nearly 16 million viewers.

“Survivor” won its time period in 44 of the 48 metered markets, placing second only in the four cities where NBC’s pro basketball action placed first: Los Angeles, Indianapolis, Sacramento and Portland.

With the NBA Finals winding down, “Survivor” figures to have a clear path to even bigger ratings in the coming weeks.

Hoops, hopes up for Game 6

As for the NBA, Wednesday’s Game 5 surged to the best rating for any finals game (13.1/24) in the two years since Michael Jordan hung up his sneakers. The game clearly benefited from its overtime session, peaking from 12-12:30 a.m. EDT with a 15.3/32.

The game averaged a 46.6/66 in Indianapolis and a 31.4/48 in L.A.

Thanks to the big score, this year’s finals may improve on last year’s all-time low marks. Through four games, this year’s finals is averaging an 11.1, down slightly from last year’s 11.3. Last year’s fifth and final game between the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks did an 11.0.

Of course, a victory by Indiana in tonight’s fifth game would extend the best-of-seven series to Monday’s sixth game, and the increased drama would likely produce stronger ratings.

Coattails for CBS

Meanwhile, “Survivor” continues to benefit other programming on CBS. “The Late Show With David Letterman,” for example, saw its adults 18-34 rating shoot up to a 1.5/8 during the week ending June 9, a 34% jump from the 1.1/6 that it logged during the same week last year. And in the ayem, CBS News’ struggling “The Early Show,” which on Thursdays features a chat with the previous night’s ousted “Survivor” contestant, jumped by 29% in women 18-49 compared with last year (0.9/8 vs. 0.7/7).

CBS also reports that “Survivor” helped push CBS.com to its highest traffic levels ever on Wednesday. Web site posted 7.4 million hits between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. ET, peaking at 3,300 hits per second at the conclusion of the broadcast.

The net plans to take advantage of “Survivor’s” huge young-adult aud on June 28 by giving viewers who might not otherwise watch CBS the chance to sample two of its big comedy hits; repeats of “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “King of Queens” will air from 9-10 that night. A week later, the premiere of “Big Brother” will air in that hour followed by “48 Hours”; the CBS newsmag has been working on a report on primetime’s reality boom, and it may air on this night.

Also as expected, CBS will go ahead with a second edition of “Survivor” to air early next year (Daily Variety, June 9), “Survivor 2: The Australian Outback.” It will feature a new group of 16 Americans vying for a million-dollar prize.

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