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''Big Brother'' isn't the ratings disaster it's been made out to be

Plus, Why you’ll see NBC ads on UPN

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‘BIG’ SURPRISE Call it the ”Two Guys and a Girl” effect: Despite constant attacks from TV critics — and a cast of walkout minded housemates — ”Big Brother” is actually a success story for CBS. The Eye’s ratings are up a whopping 138 percent among adults 18 to 34, 90 percent among adults 18 to 49, and 24 percent in total viewers in ”BB”’s six time slots versus this time last year. ”It still is great summer programming — better than running second and third repeats of existing series,” says media analyst Tim Spengler. ”It’s not ‘Survivor,’ but they’ll take it any day of the week.”

Of course, don’t tell that to the doubting Thomases who frequent Bigbrotherblows.com. They think CBS has a sinking ship on its hands, citing the network’s recent attempted payoff of $50,000 to any housemate who’d skedaddle so it could sub in a 22 year old hottie from Florida (no one took the bait). ”The general consensus is that they are in bad shape and are desperate to get someone new,” says website creator Paul Sims. But such fiduciary stunts are typical for the ”BB” franchise, says CBS spokeswoman Diane Ekeblad: In Holland, ”BB” offered the housemates $5,000 each to jump ship (two did). And in even better news: only four more months until ”Survivor: The Australian Outback.”

DOUBLE TEAM The idea of networks promoting each other’s product seems as likely as Rudy and Richard becoming bunkmates. But that’s exactly what will happen come February, when both NBC and UPN launch Vince McMahon’s new XFL Football League: The Peacock will plug the next game on UPN during its Saturday telecast, and UPN will return the favor by reminding viewers about the upcoming NBC broadcast during the game on Sunday. A similar type of time share arrangement has already worked for UPN and USA, which bent the rules by hyping each other’s wrestling programs, ”WWF Smackdown!” and ”Raw Is War,” respectively.

Says UPN’s COO, Adam Ware, ”We think [cross promotion] is win-win and believe the NBC affiliates will have the same experience.” And the back scratching won’t stop there: XFL fans may even see the occasional WWF wrestler show up on the sidelines. ”[This is] a very sports inclined group of guys,” says Jim Byrne, the WWF’s senior VP of marketing. ”We’ll likely see a lot of familiar faces sprinkled in the audience.” What’s next, Sean Hayes seen sharing a soft pretzel with the Rock during halftime?

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