Burnett's latest in troubled waters

Pirates may be all the rage at theaters, but they proved to be a tough sell for Mark Burnett and CBS.

Thursday’s premiere of “Pirate Master,” an unscripted skein from “Survivor” creator Burnett, ran second in its 8 o’clock hour and delivered about half of what “Survivor” averaged in the timeslot earlier this spring. It finished behind another of Burnett’s shows, Fox’s gamer “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?”

Night was a fairly busy one for original programming. USA scored with the premiere of its original series “The Starter Wife” (see related story), TNT netted sizable numbers for its Cleveland-Detroit NBA playoff contest, and ABC did OK but was down 20% year to year with its airing of the “Scripps National Spelling Bee.”

According to same-day national estimates from Nielsen, “Pirate Master” averaged a 2.3 rating/8 share in adults 18-49 and 6.99 million viewers overall. Those numbers put it on par with the premiere of “Game Show Marathon” in the same hour on the comparable night a year ago at CBS.

Fox won the hour with “5th Grader” (3.2/11 in 18-49, 8.93m), a midseason hit for the net that is continuing with some original episodes early in the summer season.

“Pirate Master,” in which 16 people compete as pirates on the high seas in search of hidden treasures, also collected a 9 share in adults 25-54 but just a 5 share among persons 12-34. It did manage to maintain or gain in share in its second half-hour in all key ratings categories.

Show is skedded to air on Thursdays the rest of the summer, although the Eye was likely waiting to see how it fares before announcing the summer sked of “Big Brother,” which returns in July. Latter has consistently played Thursdays at 8 in the summer, so it would need to find another home if “Pirate” remains regularly on the night.

At ABC, the “Scripps National Spelling Bee” averaged a 2.0/6 in 18-49 and 7.10 million viewers overall from 8 to 10:12 p.m., down 20% from last year’s 2.5/8 in the demo. Not surprisingly, numbers peaked when the winner was determined in the final 12 minutes, with a 9 share in 18-49 and nearly 10 million viewers overall.

TNT drew the top cable numbers of the night with its double-overtime NBA game (2.4/8 in 18-49, 5.65m from 8:19 p.m.-12:01 a.m. ET), and USA did nicely with “Starter Wife” (2.2/6 in 18-49, 5.39m) from 9 to 10:54 p.m.

Both these programs easily beat NBC’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (1.7/5 in 18-49, 4.10m), as the net continues to burn off original episodes of the series this summer.

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