An Eye-land paradise

CBS sets summer record with socko 'Survivor' ratings

The viewers have spoken. And it got very loud.

“Survivor” mania reached a crescendo Wednesday night when an average of 51.69 million viewers watched the summer phenom’s final episode — more than any program this season except the Super Bowl.

In the final 30 minutes, which saw wily Richard Hatch emerge as the surprise million-dollar winner, 58.58 million viewers were glued to the tribal council vote, representing nearly half of all televisions in use at the time.

“I’ll take it,” CBS Television prexy and CEO Leslie Moonves said. “Needless to say it’s a good day in Television City. Everyone is in a glow.”

Moonves expressed surprise that the final “Survivor” even beat March’s Academy Awards performance.

“Network TV is back,” he said.

Show topped a 50 share in all key demo breakdowns, including a 54 in adults 18-49 and an incredible 60 share in adults 18-34, both again second only to the Super Bowl.

Going out with a bang

The island-based reality series, which had gained viewers with each of its last seven episodes prior to the finale, really took off Wednesday: Its 51.69 million viewers — well ahead of projections — was 80% ahead of the penultimate episode Aug. 16 (28.67 million) and more than three times the 15.51 million who caught the series premiere May 31.

It drew more viewers this season, for example, than the Academy Awards (49.62 million), the most-watched episode of “ER” (39.38 million) or the most-watched celebrity editions of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” (36.05 million).

According to Nielsen, “Survivor’s” 28.6 rating and 45 share in homes makes it the highest-rated CBS telecast since the women’s figure skating finals (Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding) at the 1994 Winter Olympics (44.1/64). It also ranks as the highest-rated summer broadcast since such marks were first kept, beginning in 1987.

The final half-hour grabbed a 32.0 rating and 48 share.

These numbers are all the more amazing given that “Survivor” had only 13 weeks to generate viewer interest and such a rabid following. Conversely, some of the top-rated programs of all time are finales of series — like all-time champ “MASH” (60.2/77) — that were on the air for many years.

Also, viewing levels are considerably lower during the summer months as vacations, good weather and other distractions keep more people away from their sets. The Super Bowl, on the other hand, benefits by airing on the most-watched night of the week (Sunday) and during the most-watched month of the year (January).

Because of these factors, the “Survivor” rating, as expected, did not come close to the finales of such series as “MASH,” “The Fugitive” (45.9/72), “Cheers” (45.5/64) or “Seinfeld” (41.3/58).

In the key advertiser demo of adults 18-49, “Survivor” averaged a 22.8/54, including a 32.0/48 in the final half-hour. That bests the Academy Awards’ 19.2/47 and the Feb. 17 episode of “ER” (20.2/48) to rank second only to the Super Bowl’s 37.9/70.

Other lofty scores included: 23.4/60 in adults 18-34, a 26.1/62 in women 18-34 and a 23.5/52 in adults 25-54. From 8 to 10 p.m., CBS topped the other five networks combined by 212% in adults 18-49 (22.8 vs. 7.3), by 277% in adults 18-34 (23.4 vs. 6.2) and by 168% in viewers (51.69 million vs. 19.30).

Follow-up feast

The post-show town hall meeting, featuring all 16 “Survivor” castaways, averaged 38.77 million viewers and delivered an 18.1/44 in adults 18-49 — more than three times the combined ABC-NBC demo score in the hour (6.0/14).

CBS won the night by 32 shares in homes and by 45 shares in adults 18-49. NBC, the No. 2 net on the night in adults 18-49, averaged just one-ninth of the CBS rating (21.3 vs. 2.3).

The big night boosted David Letterman’s “Late Show,” which delivered a 7.9/20 in Nielsen’s metered markets, the program’s third-highest rating of the September-August broadcast season and more than double its average (3.6/10).

Craig Kilborn’s “The Late Late Show” followed with a 2.5/10, tying as the program’s highest rating since its March 1999 premiere.

CBS estimates that 125 million viewers watched all or part of the “Survivor” series, which will be rebroadcast on 13 nights over a 15-day stretch beginning Sept. 15. The second edition of the series, set for the Australian Outback, will premiere Jan. 28 after the net’s coverage of the Super Bowl.

(Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star

    Wanda Sykes, Mike Epps to Star in Multi-Camera Comedy Series for Netflix

    Wanda Sykes and Mike Epps are headed to Netflix. The streamer has ordered a multi-camera comedy series starring the two comedians titled “The Upshaws.” The series centers on a working-class Africian American family in Indiana struggling to make it work and make it right without the blueprints to do it. Sykes will executive produce and [...]

  • Vader Streams Shuts Down

    Vader Streams Shut Down by Hollywood Studios

    A coalition of Hollywood studios and streaming companies announced on Tuesday that they have shut down Vader Streams, which was once a popular source of pirated TV content. The service went offline in early May under mysterious circumstances, leading to speculation that the operator had either absconded or been forced out of business. The Alliance [...]

  • Søren-Sveistrup

    Netflix Teams With 'The Killing' Creator for Crime Thriller 'The Chestnut Man'

    HAUGESUND, Norway  — Further expanding its Scandinavian footprint, Netflix has announced its second Danish original series, “The Chestnut Man,” a police thriller based on “The Killing” creator Søren Sveistrup’s popular novel. The streaming giant will team with Sveistrup’s SAM Productions, minority owned by Studiocanal, part of Vivendi Canal Plus Group, to deliver this noir-influenced literary [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    ICM Blasts Writers Guild Over Withdrawal of State Lawsuit

    ICM Partners has slammed the leaders of the Writers Guild of America over its decision to withdraw from its state court lawsuit in favor of refiling the action in federal court. The agency, which was sued in April by the guild and eight WGA members over charging allegedly illegal packaging fees, issued a statement Tuesday [...]

  • succession

    'Succession' Renewed for Season 3 at HBO

    “Succession” has scored an early Season 3 renewal at HBO. The news comes as the critically-acclaimed drama series is just two episodes into its second season. Season 1 of the series was recently nominated for five Emmy Awards, including for best drama series. “We are elated that ‘Succession’ and its exploration of wealth, power and [...]

  • Kaley CuocoHilarity for Charity Sixth Annual

    Kaley Cuoco HBO Max Series 'The Flight Attendant' Sets Creative Team

    The creative team set to bring Kaley Cuoco’s dark comedy series “The Flight Attendant” to HBO Max has taken shape. The series, which tells the terrifying story of a flight attendant (Cuoco) who wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, with a dead man and no idea what happened, has tapped Susanna [...]

  • Mayim Bialik

    Mayim Bialik Signs Warner Bros. TV Production, Talent Holding Deal

    “The Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik is expanding her relationship with the production studio behind the long-running CBS comedy. Bialik and her newly launched Sad Clown Productions banner have signed an exclusive multi-year production deal with the studio, coupled with a talent holding provision for her acting services. Bialik is bringing on former Chuck [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content