Gameshow secures primetime slot for sweeps

After serving CBS well during the writers strike, “The Price Is Right” will return to primetime Wednesday with the first of four sweep specials.

Primetime version of the show, in which contestants now get more chances at the $1 million prize, will air in the leadoff hour through May 21. The Eye aired six episodes of the long-running gamer, now hosted by Drew Carey, on Fridays in February, March and April — and each won its time period in key demos — adults 18-49 and 25-54 — as well as total viewers.

The March 7 broadcast, which averaged 10.26 million viewers, attracted the largest aud for a “Price Is Right” primetime spec (excluding Bob Barker’s farewell primetime special last May) since December 2003. That episode was one of three primetime specials in which a contestant walked away with more than $1 million in cash and prizes.

“We’ve worked at keeping the show’s traditional elements that our longtime fans are familiar with while updating the games and sets to appeal to a new audience,” said Barbara Bloom, senior VP of daytime, who oversees both the morning and primetime versions of the show.

CBS is using “TPIR” in a slot where it has struggled all season — first with “Kid Nation” and then “Big Brother” — and where in May it will serve as counter-programming opposite the unscripted likes of “Deal or No Deal,” “Wife Swap,” “America’s Next Top Model” and, eventually, “American Idol.” If it performs well down the stretch, don’t be surprised to see more “TPIR” in primetime next season — as a sweep special or perhaps even a regular series.

Even though all daytime programs are trending downward in the ratings this season, “Price” has held up well in its first six months with Carey. Show is roughly flat in both the 18-49 and 25-54 categories while overall viewership has dipped a bit, from to 4.8 million from 5.5 million.

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