'Survivor' survives top spot, despite lower ratings

“Survivor” continues to take CBS to new ratings heights on what had long been one of its weakest nights.

Despite lower ratings, “Survivor: The Australian Outback” put more distance between itself and NBC’s comedies last week, helping the Eye top an all-original Peacock Thursday lineup in total viewers for the first time. And it pulled the feat with one show tied behind its back: The ratings-challenged 10 p.m. drama “Big Apple” again sunk to new lows; it was canceled by CBS Friday.

According to Nielsen, the Eye averaged 19.1 million viewers in primetime Thursday to NBC’s 18.7 million. The Peacock remained on top in adults 18-49 (9.5 to 7.6).

“Survivor” (28.12 million) was the most-watched program on Thursday for the seventh time in as many tries even though it slipped to a season low. The reality adventure series topped NBC’s original comedies (“Friends” and “The Weber Show”) by a best-yet 79% in total viewers (28.12m vs. 15.71m) and by 64% in adults 18-49 (11.8/29 vs. 7.2/18).

While “Survivor” was only slightly off its averages, “Friends” tumbled to its second-lowest firstrun marks ever in the 8 p.m. timeslot (17.81m, 8.1/21 in A18-49), behind only last Thanksgiving. Compared with its most recent original episode on March 15, “Friends” was down by 14% in viewers and 19% in 18-49.

Rookie crime drama “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” also contributed to the Eye’s victory — winning its hour in viewers (21.57m) as well as adults 25-54 (10.4/22) — but 10 p.m. drama “Big Apple” (7.51m, 2.6/7) again followed with anemic numbers.

Elsewhere, the Eye had good news Saturday with its coverage of the NCAA men’s basketball semifinals, while Fox’s “Lone Gunmen” showed improvement in its third Friday outing.

“Gunmen” (prelim 6.2 million, 2.9/9 in A18-49), without college basketball to deal with for the first time, rallied to its best marks in three tries. It remained fourth in viewers and third in 18-49 but was up vs. its two-week Friday averages by 22% and 16%, respectively.

CBS dominated Saturday with the primetime semifinal contest between Duke and Maryland. Although reliable prelim nationals weren’t available, it appears the game could produce national ratings at least 10% better than last year’s comparable game (North Carolina-Florida), which averaged 15.2 million viewers and a 6.0/20 in 18-49.

Opposite basketball, the XFL on NBC managed a mere 1.8/3 in overnight household ratings and will likely approach its lowest marks to date when nationals are issued Tuesday.

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