Show builds on 'Survivor' lead-in

CBS welcomed a “Big Brother” into its family Wednesday to huge ratings, especially among young adults.

Though “Big Brother” experienced an across-the-board dropoff in its final half-hour, its hour rating in adults 18-34 (10.2/34) actually built on its substantial “Survivor” lead-in (10.0/34), according to preliminary national numbers from Nielsen — suggesting that the latest entry into the reality genre, which has been likened to MTV’s “Real World” series, could skew even younger than “Survivor.”

Some of the dropoff may have come in response to the opening hour’s format, which was savaged by critics for focusing too much on the arrival of the show’s 10 players rather than the inhouse hijinks that figure to provide much of the program’s drama.

It’s the hijinks that the show’s producers are hoping will lure Netizens to a 24-hour Webcast of “Big Brother’s” participants at BigBrother2000.com and on America Online. Sites launched Wednesday during series’ bow.

No ‘Net figures

Both AOL and CBS said Thursday that final figures of the number of Netizens that visited the sites had yet to be tallied. BigBrother2000.com, which enables users to view live footage from four cameras, did undergo a major redesign after the show’s bow, which likely affected final counts.

“Big Brother,” an Endemol production of a reality format that was pioneered in Europe, averaged 22.4 million viewers and an adults 18-49 rating of 10.0/27 from 9-10 p.m., based on prelim nationals. These numbers represent dropoffs from its “Survivor” lead-in of 7% and 4%, respectively.

“Brother” combined with what appear to be best-yet numbers for “Survivor” to give CBS its biggest Wednesday in all key demos since the Grammy Awards in February. (Final nationals are delayed by Nielsen until today due to the Fourth of July holiday.)

“Big Brother” took advantage of its “Survivor” lead-in to post debut numbers considerably larger than those of “Survivor’s” launch on May 31. If the national numbers hold up, “Big Brother” will have showed gains over the “Survivor” debut of 44% in viewers (22.4 million vs. 15.51), 64% in adults 18-49 (10.0/27 vs. 6.1/20), 63% in adults 25-54 (10.1/26 vs. 6.2/19) and 52% in adults 18-34 (10.2/30 vs. 6.7/23).

5 segs per week

“Big Brother,” which aired a half-hour episode Thursday, will settle into its regular schedule beginning tonight. CBS will air “Big Brother” on five nights a week through Sept. 30, with half-hour segs on Monday, Tuesday and Friday and one-hour episodes on Thursday and Saturday; each episode begins at 8.

The anticipation of “Big Brother” appeared to have resulted in the youngest-skewing seg of “Survivor” to date. According to prelims, the sixth week of “Survivor” has set new highs in adults 18-49 (10.4/32), adults 25-54 (11.0/32) and adults 18-34 (10.0/34) while drawing about 24 million viewers — just behind the 24.22 million of two weeks ago.

CBS also got a strong perf Wednesday at 10 p.m. from a special “Price of Fame” episode of newsmag “48 Hours” (prelim 16 million viewers, 6.8/19 in A18-49), topping the numbers for every edition of the newsmag that aired during the regular season and this summer.

And in latenight, “The Late Show with David Letterman” delivered a 4.5/11 in the Nielsen metered markets, its best showing on any night since March 6.

The Eye net’s big Wednesday is more impressive given the stepped-up competition at Fox and ABC, which countered with repeats of popular theatricals. “Jerry Maguire” (prelim 3.7/11 in A18-49) boosted Fox to its best Wednesday since May 17 (the “Beverly Hills, 90210″ series finale), while “Con Air” (prelim 4.1/12 in A18-49 from 8-10:30) propelled ABC to its best Wednesday in six weeks.

(Marc Graser contributed to this report).

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