‘Survivor’ adapts to surroundings

Skein changes CBS' ratings, aud profile

Mauling “Millionaire” for the second week in a row, “Survivor” has become the tiger of the Eye.

As TV’s newest nonfiction ratings phenom, the extreme reality skein is already forcing industry execs to rethink strategies. Most affected, of course, is CBS — which has become a Wednesday night young adult powerhouse overnight.

“It’s a game changer,” said one industry wag. “It not only gets ratings, it changes (CBS’ audience) profile. Any show that can reach people you’re not already reaching is a good thing.”

“Survivor” stranded 18.1 million viewers Wednesday night, up 17% vs. the show’s premiere a week ago (15.5 million). Regis Philbin was left in the boat as “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’s” special Wednesday night screening took in 15.6 million wannabe rich viewers — down 1.3 million from last week, when it beat “Survivor.”

Wednesday night’s demo derby looked like it came straight out of Bizarro world. CBS’ “Survivor” clocked a median age of 42.5, while “Millionaire’s” median age came in at 51.2. Not exactly the ages you’d expect from the respective networks of “Diagnosis Murder” and “Two Guys and a Girl.”

For example, among adults 18 to 34, CBS has clearly stumbled upon the fountain of youth (Mountain Dew, anyone?).

In the demo, “Survivor” averaged a 7.6 rating and 28 share, up 13% from last week (6.7/23). The series beat “Millionaire” (3.6/13) by 111% in the demo.

Among adults 18 to 49, “Survivor” dominated the hour with a 7.5 rating and 25 share, up 23% vs. last week (6.1/20). The show bested “Millionaire” (4.6/15) by 63%.

‘Chink in the armor’

ABC said it was forced to air “Millionaire” on Wednesday for the second week in a row because the show’s Thursday night installment was to be preempted for the fifth game of the Stanley Cup hockey finals.

Losing to “Survivor” somewhat tarnishes “Millionaire’s” media glow, making the once-invincible quizzer seem somewhat vulnerable, especially with younger auds. “It’s a chink in the armor,” said one network exec.

Whatever the media perception, however, there’s no evidence that the loss to “Survivor” is making “Millionaire” less appealing to viewers on other nights. Tuesday’s seg attracted the gameshow’s best audience shares since the celeb edition of “Millionaire” on May 4.

“I don’t think this is the death of ‘Millionaire’ in the slightest,” ABC Entertainment Television Group co-topper Stu Bloomberg said. “It’s summer, it’s 8 o’clock … it’s not as though it’s diminished” the popularity of “Millionaire” on other nights.

Complimentary

Bloomberg said his belief in “Millionaire’s” inherent strength “takes nothing away from ‘Survivor.'”

“It’s a good show,” he said. “It’s well executed, it’s well promoted, it’s well marketed. They’ve done an amazing job. … The television viewer is the real winner.”

Bloomberg said ABC won’t air “Millionaire” against “Survivor” next week, in part because Philbin is on vacation. “Right now, we’re staying with our schedule,” he said.

Should “Survivor” continue to blossom, however, some industry insiders think ABC might find a way to get some form of “Millionaire” on against “Survivor” later this summer, if only to prevent the show from picking up even more steam.

CBS execs were doing their best to contain their enthusiasm over the success of “Survivor”: The net’s execs passed up chances to tubthump the skein’s perf on the record, though an Eye spokesman said “obviously there are a lot of happy faces around here.”

‘Halo effect’

Clearly, however, Eye insiders were optimistic that “Survivor” could be a turning point in the net’s goal of getting younger.

“There is a halo effect to a show like this,” one said. “It helps you in many places.”

In addition to providing a solid promo base for CBS’ other reality skein, the soon-to-launch “Big Brother,” “Survivor” will give the net a perfect place to hype its new fall wares.

CBS also plans to selectively preempt its regular Wednesday pic to air series programming, exposing new eyeballs to the likes of “JAG” or “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

There’s also already early evidence that both “Late Show With David Letterman” and “The Early Show” have gotten small bumps from the “Survivor” buzz.

Eye is even getting a financial boost from “Survivor.”

While most of the show’s commercial spots had been pre-sold, the CBS-owned stations should be able to make a killing in the local scatter ad market. One Eye station that had been selling spots for $15,000 per unit is already getting $40,000 for the same 30-second avail, sources said.

The boost CBS is getting at 9 p.m. Wednesday might also help add to the net’s bottom line.

Skein helps pic

“Survivor” gave a big push to this week’s 9-11 p.m. pic, “Now and Then” (12.9 million viewers; 4.8 rating among adults 18 to 49). Film held on to much more of the “Survivor” crowd than last week’s “Species.”

That overdelivery of viewers translates into around $1.5 million for CBS coffers by helping spike the net’s overall Wednesday movie average.

Thanks to “Survivor,” CBS won the night among viewers (14.6 million) and adults 18 to 49 (5.7 rating) despite strong competish from NBC’s coverage of the NBA finals.

Game one of the Los Angeles Lakers-Indiana Pacers contest averaged a 6.6 rating among adults 18 to 49 and 15.3 million viewers. That’s down from Game 1 of last year’s match between the San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks, which averaged a 7.5 rating with adults 18 to 49 and 16.6 million viewers.

The Lakers-Pacers opener also averaged a 10.5 household rating and 18 share, making it the lowest-rated NBA Finals Game 1 ever in primetime among homes.

Combined with a so-so “Dateline” number (9.3 million viewers; 3.5 rating among adults 18 to 49), NBC ended up taking second place among adults 18 to 49 (5.4 rating) and total viewers (12.9 million).

With “Millionaire” not quite up to its normal blockbuster standards and “Clerks” petering out with episode two, ABC took third with both viewers (11.3 million) and adults 18 to 49 (3.9 rating). The dismal perf from “Clerks” has led to that show’s early demise.

Fox redeemed itself at 9 p.m. as the Britney Spears crowd tuned in to watch her gyrate in the 50th state. Armed with two TV Guide covers this week, “Britney in Hawaii” averaged 11.2 million viewers and a 4.4 rating among adults 18 to 49.

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