Date: 25th August 2000

72 Million Tuned In

CBS ratings trackers Thursday estimated that 72 million people watched at least part of the Wednesday night's Survivor finale, making it the second-most-watched show of the year, behind the Super Bowl. Analysts were unable to find another summer entertainment show that came close to attracting an audience of that size. It even topped the usual number-two telecast, the Oscars. Traffic to Survivor's Web page on reflected the enormous interest in the show, tallying 254,000 "unique" visitors, twice the usual number.

Analysts were at odds Thursday over whether Survivor's success will continue to have an impact on CBS programming, particularly on whether younger viewers will continue to stick around and whether the hike in ratings for Late Show with David Letterman and The CBS Early Show would last.

CBS chief Les Moonves was clearly making no bets about the longterm effect, telling today's (Friday) New York Daily News: ""I don't think we're going to be able to judge the longterm impact until the next Survivor series is on the air," he said.

The halo effect that was happening to Gumbel and to Letterman, I don't know how much of that will spill over to the fall. I don't think it will be that much. I don't know how far-reaching the effects of Survivor will be." (Today's New York Times, citing CBS's top sales exec, Joseph Abruzzese, said that Survivor II is likely to attract the highest per-commercial price of any series on TV next season.)

Reporting the results today (Friday), Washington Post TV writer Lisa de Moraes wrote: "
And if you're wondering why Bryant Gumbel condescended to host the post-Survivor reunion show -- it snagged nearly 40 million viewers. And the last time Gumbel had that many people watching him host a show was . . . never." Significantly perhaps, the show did little to improve the ratings of Chicago's no-nonsense 10:00 p.m. newscast featuring Carol Marin, which followed Wednesday's episode.

Chicago Sun-Times radio-TV columnist Robert Feder reported today that nearly half the Survivor audience bailed out on the newscast. The winner, said Feder, was WLS, the only ABC affiliate in the country to overcome the Survivor ratings explosion.

Richard Hatch, the Rhode Island corporate trainer who won the $1-million top prize on Survivor, told reporters Thursday that he has been deluged with calls from people offering to represent him in future media deals. Hatch said: "
There are people in this business and they are called agents and some are called managers and some are called entertainment lawyers. It's going to take me some time. I'm not one to just jump into it without knowing what I'm doing."

Source: Studio Briefing