First they aired ”Jesus”; now CBS has another ratings miracle on its hands: ”Survivor” is actually luring the Gen-X crowd to the traditionally gray-haired network. Thanks to lots of hyping on MTV and VH1 (the Eye’s sister nets, since its merger with Viacom), ”Survivor”’s May 31 outing beat ABC’s ratings juggernaut ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” among adults 18-34 (amassing 4.1 million viewers). The last time CBS scored such high marks with that demo was on Jan. 1, 1992, with ”Davis Rules” and ”Brooklyn Bridge.” ”It was a harmonic convergence of several events: original summer programming, a unique concept, and aggressive promotion,” says spokesman Chris Ender.
While the Eye is cautious about pounding its chest too early, ABC’s got to be concerned about swapping demos with the Tiffany network (”Survivor”’s debut attracted an average age of 44 to ”Millionaire”’s 52.2). And audiences tuning in to Regis aren’t the only ones who seem ripe for Centrum Silvers: Because of their ”Millionaire” lead-ins, ”Dharma & Greg” went from an average age of 39.8 in October to 41.7 in May, while ”The Practice” aged from 45.4 to 47.7. If this keeps up, Dick Van Dyke may soon be diagnosing murders over on the Alphabet.
THE PLOYS OF SUMMER Faster than you can say ”goodbye, ‘Shasta McNasty,”’ the nets began rolling out the promos for their fall shows. Fox was first with its sneak peek at the supernatural drama ”Fearsum” (from the ”Blair Witch” folks) during the May 21 ”X-Files” finale, NBC quickly followed suit by touting ”Titans” star Yasmine Bleeth during the NBA play-offs, while CBS hyped Bette Midler’s new sitcom during ”Survivor”’s debut. Though the new season doesn’t start until Oct. 2, execs say early advertising is a no-brainer. ”While it’s tough to get things noticed, viewers are immediately going to remember Yasmine in a bathing suit,” says NBC’s marketing prez, John Miller.
It will also be hard to ignore Midler and ABC’s upcoming sitcom star Geena Davis, who’ll keep getting the promo treatment during ongoing fresh episodes of ”Survivor” and ”Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” respectively. On a related note, NBC will spare us its usual ”It’s New to You” summer promo campaign, which was created to put a more viewer-friendly spin on reruns. Says the Peacock’s marketing guru Vince Manze: ”What we learned is, maybe the reason two thirds of the people didn’t watch during the season is because they didn’t want to.”
AND SO ON… Speculation had it that NBC, which bought the broadcast rights to ”Titanic” for a bargain $30 million, would air it in one commercial-free block (like it did with the lengthy ”Schindler’s List ”three years ago). But insiders say the net is leaning toward packing the three-hour, 18-minute flick with ads and airing it over two nights in November.