Show earns lowest numbers to date for opener

CBS vet “Survivor” kicked off its 15th edition with below-average ratings Thursday night, though it still dominated its time period opposite mostly repeat competition.

According to live plus same-day DVR viewing estimates by Nielsen, “Survivor: China” averaged a 5.0 rating/15 share in adults 18-49 and 15.35 million viewers overall — the lowest numbers to date for an opener of the reality adventure series, off 12% in the demo vs. last February’s “Fiji” edition (5.7/15) and down 23% from “Cook Islands” a year ago (6.5/20).

While this is a low score for “Survivor,” it’s worth noting that it’s still about 60% bigger than what “Kid Nation” premiered to a night earlier for CBS.

And despite the falloff, “Survivor” more than doubled the delivery of Fox’s second-place quizzer “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 8.26 million viewers overall), which aired an original episode. “Smarter,” which started off very strong last spring, has cooled off and no longer looks like as formidable a threat to the competition.

Fox picked up a bit in the 9 o’clock hour with an original episode of “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” (2.8/8 in 18-49, 8.27 million viewers overall), placing second for the hour.

With the boost from “Survivor,” CBS cruised the rest of the night, also winning with repeats of the series finales of “CSI” at 9 (4.0/11 in 18-49, 14.07 million viewers overall) and “Without a Trace” at 10 (2.9/6 in 18-49, 11.28 million viewers overall).

NBC was led by a rebroadcast of the season finale of “The Office” from last May (2.4/6 in 18-49, 4.85 million viewers overall), ABC by a repeat of the “Grey’s Anatomy” season finale (1.9/5 in 18-49, 5.55 million viewers overall).

Next Thursday will the see the return off the night’s heavyweight hitters, including “Grey’s” on ABC, “CSI” on CBS and “The Office” on NBC — all now in the same 9 o’clock hour. ABC’s “Big Shots” is the only scripted newcomer on the night this fall, bowing behind “Grey’s” next week.

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