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Eye extends ‘Big Bro’ to preem week

Move delays 'Queens' shift to Weds.

CBS’s premiere week sked is getting a dose of “Big Brother”-ly love.

Eye has ordered two more episodes of the hit reality skein, a move that means the summer sudser — in the middle of what’s perhaps its most successful season yet — will now wrap its fourth season on Wednesday, Sept. 24, from 9-10 p.m., rather than the previously planned Sept. 17. That’s the first Wednesday of the 2003-04 television season, and a sure sign that CBS execs have faith in “BB4” — from Endemol and exec producers Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner — to end with a bang.

Schedule shuffle means a one-week delay for one of the Eye’s biggest sked moves of the year: The shift of “King of Queens” to Wednesday nights. Kevin James starrer will now have its one-hour bow Oct. 1, with “Becker” beginning its new season Oct. 8.

It also pits “Big Brother’s” swan song opposite the season premiere of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” as well as the debut of the Aaron Sorkin-less “The West Wing” and an original seg of Fox’s “Paradise Hotel.”

‘Big’ help

CBS exec VP of program planning Kelly Kahl said having “Big Brother 4” wrap during the all-important premiere week helps the net in several ways.

“It eliminates some uncertainty for us,” he said. “Knowing how well ‘Big Brother’ has been doing this summer, we know we’ll get a good audience for the finale.”

In addition, with “King of Queens” moving back a week, the Eye gets another week to hype the sked shift. “Becker” also benefits, since the skein got late word on its fall pickup.

Except for the show’s second season, CBS has traditionally wrapped “Big Brother” — which airs thrice weekly, and is also exec produced by Jon Kroll — the week before the season’s start. But the skein has been a ratings workhorse for the Eye this summer, winning its timeslot among adults 18-49 every time it’s aired.

“The beauty is, it guarantees a kind of consistent audience throughout the summer,” Kahl said. “That’s invaluable in helping us promote our new lineup.”

Tough competish

Overall averages for “Brother” are on a par with last season, but that’s in part because two of the show’s three weekly segs air at 8 p.m. this summer; a year ago, only one seg aired at the earlier hour. “Brother” has also faced tougher reality competish this year, including Fox’s red-hot “Bro”-like “Paradise Hotel,” which has been doing particularly well with adults 18-34.

“I think it’s impressive to us that each year we’ve done ‘Big Brother,’ it’s gotten more successful and popular,” said Shapiro, who said the extra segs serve as a “vote of confidence” from CBS. “I can’t think of another (long-running) reality show that gets more popular with each additional season.”

Shapiro credited part of this summer’s momentum to the Grodner-created “X Factor” twist, in which contestants’ exes were secretly cast to be a part of the show.

“The unpredictable components we introduce each year are a factor in the show’s popularity,” he said. “And we’re also only on once a year. All the other hit reality shows are on as often as the networks can get them on. We’re appointment viewing. People know every summer there’s going to be ‘Big Brother,’ so they can look forward to it like a summer vacation.”

Endemol USA topper David Goldberg, whose company owns the format rights to “Big Brother,” is looking to capitalize on the skein’s rabid fan base by introducing a boxed set of DVDs featuring all 32 episodes of last summer’s “Big Brother 3.”

“Because the show doesn’t have a (traditional) syndication backend, we looked for alternative ways of making money on the existing episodes,” he said. “DVD seemed to be a natural alternative.”

Collection is available on the CBS.com Web site, and is expected to be available in stores soon. Endemol is also mulling a DVD release of “Big Brother 4.”