CBS Has a Hit With `Survivor'

Friday, June 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — CBS's ``Survivor'' is fast becoming a summer television phenomenon, with the cutthroat band of tropical island dwellers beating ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' in the ratings this week.

``We're thrilled in the manner that viewers have responded to the show,'' CBS spokesman Chris Ender said, ``and beating `Millionaire' makes it that much sweeter.''

``Millionaire,'' hosted by Regis Philbin, was last summer's phenomenon. ``Survivor'' beat it in the Wednesday night ratings in only its second week on the air.

CBS executives were miffed that ABC, at the last minute, scheduled episodes of ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' opposite ``Survivor'' for the first two weeks of the heavily hyped summer reality series.

``Survivor'' averaged 18.1 million viewers on Wednesday night, compared with 15.5 million for ``Millionaire,'' Nielsen Media Research said Thursday. Last week, Philbin's game show beat ``Survivor.''

During the last half of the show, when a ``tribal council'' vote sent retired contractor B.B. Andersen of Mission Hills, Kan., home to reduce their ranks to 14, the viewership jumped to 19.4 million people.

CBS is also elated that ``Survivor'' is drawing a much younger audience than its typical fare. Among viewers aged 18-34, ``Survivor'' had more than twice the viewers of ``Millionaire,'' Nielsen said.

``Survivor'' also drew more viewers Wednesday than the first game of the National Basketball Association finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Indiana Pacers, and a Britney Spears concert special.

''`Survivor' is the event of the summer and even the power of Regis cannot beat it,'' said Marc Berman, a television analyst for

Berman said ABC had severely miscalculated by scheduling ``Millionaire'' against ``Survivor.'' Now the game show looks vulnerable and is in danger of burning out, he said. The viewership for ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' on Wednesday was a little more than half what it was during its peak this season.

ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman said the network had no regrets about using the game show against ``Survivor.''

``Our job is to bring as many viewers to ABC as possible,'' Kevin Brockman said. ``That's why we utilized these additional `Millionaires' as strategically as we could. Kudos to CBS, but the reality is `Millionaire' is a proven performer that consistently delivers a huge audience several times a week to ABC.''

``Survivor,'' meanwhile, is a stunt instead of a long-lasting series, he said. ``It's a good stunt, but it's a stunt.''

ABC has no further plans to schedule special editions of ``Who Wants to Be a Millionaire'' opposite ``Survivor,'' he said.