CBS survives a leak

Web site reveals castoff, but auds increase

Just what television’s No. 1 program needed: a little more publicity.

CBS’ summer smash “Survivor” apparently has benefited from the hubbub caused by a widely reported leak on its Web site, as Wednesday’s episode surged to the show’s best ratings yet.

Even if some of the suspense was gone prior to the eighth “Survivor” seg, viewers still turned out in amazing numbers to see a 24-year-old Ivy League grad named Greg voted off the island. Series added more than 1-1/2 million viewers this week and hit new demo highs across the board.

Its demo scores have ballooned so high, in fact, that they have surpassed, or are fast approaching, the best posted to date by ABC’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” — an impressive feat for a summer series, even if it does face less competition than regular-season programs.

CBS officials temporarily shut down the “Survivor” Web site (CBS.com) on Wednesday afternoon and yanked a story that revealed “Nature Boy” Greg to be the booted castaway, but not before the word got out via other Web sites and wire services. While the mystery of who will ultimately emerge as the last remaining survivor is key to the show’s success, the leak didn’t appear to do anything but create more awareness of the series by airtime Wednesday night.

Besting previous high

According to Nielsen, Wednesday’s hour averaged 26.15 million viewers — 1.65 million more than the show’s previous high set last week and more than three times the audience of the second-place show in the 8 o’clock hour (8.24 million for NBC’s “Dateline.”).

It easily won in all 48 of Nielsen’s metered markets, including Minneapolis, where it scored a whopping 44 share.

And in the demo department, “Survivor” grew in key categories from week-to-week by margins ranging from 10% (adults 25-54) to 15% (women 18-34). It established new high-water marks in every key adult breakdown as well as in both kids (5.4/21) and teens (6.4/28).

CBS topped the combined five-net competish from 8-9 by a best-yet 31% in adults 18-49. Compared with a year ago, the Eye improved on its time period averages by 238% in homes, by 471% in adults 25-54, by 571% in adults 18-49 and by an astounding 875% in adults 18-34.

“Survivor’s” best scores came from women 25-54 (13.0/35), women 18-34 (12.9/38) and women 18-49 (12.7/36).

Tops with men

In men 18-34, the reality series jumped to a 10.5/36 — easily surpassing the best score turned in by “Millionaire” (9.3/32), for a celeb edition on May 2. “Survivor’s” 11.7/37 in adults 18-34 also tops the 11.6/36 series-high for “Millionaire,” also on May 2.

It’s also now within striking distance of the top “Millionaire” in adults 18-49 (11.4 vs. 12.4) and men 18-49 (10.2 vs. 10.5).

“Survivor” has farther to go to catch “Millionaire” in adults 25-54 (still 3 shares back) and kids (12 shares back). It’s also still nearly 10 million viewers behind the largest aud for the quizzer (36.05 million, set with a celeb edition in May), whose totals include larger chunks of viewers 50-plus.

For its eight episodes, “Survivor” is averaging 22.54 million viewers and demo scores of 9.4/30 in adults 18-49, 9.9/30 in adults 25-54 and 9.4/32 in adults 18-34.

The 13-week series wraps Aug. 23 with a two-hour finale.

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