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CBS Plays It Coy Concerning Where 'Survivor II' Will Land

Television * As the summer hit show prepares for its return to the airwaves, the network hopes to keep competitors guessing about its regular time slot.

November 28, 2000|BRIAN LOWRY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CBS is doing its best to turn the scheduling of "Survivor: The Australian Outback" into a guessing game.

A conference call Monday ostensibly arranged to discuss the network's less-than-dazzling performance during the November rating sweeps was unsurprisingly dominated by questions about the sequel to the summer hit, which is currently shooting in Australia.

CBS Television President Leslie Moonves acknowledged the network was delaying any announcement regarding "Survivor's" regular time slot for three or four weeks, hoping to handcuff rival networks in their plans to combat the show. "I just like keeping our competitors on edge," Moonves said.

Moonves noted there is little urgency regarding a decision, since "Survivor II" will make its debut after the Jan. 28 Super Bowl, providing a vast platform to launch and promote the show. Speculation has focused on CBS scheduling the series on Thursday nights--attempting to undermine NBC's "Must-See TV" lineup--or Wednesdays, where "Survivor" originally played during the summer.

CBS would only rule out Mondays or Tuesdays, and Moonves downplayed prospects of the show landing on Sundays, which would necessitate moving "Touched by an Angel."

While CBS would like to deflate NBC's overwhelming Thursday numbers, Moonves acknowledged "Survivor" would struggle to reach its full ratings potential that night, where it would also likely face UPN's "WWF Smackdown!" Eight core sponsors on the new "Survivor" are paying a reported $14 million for commercial time and product placement during the program.

The considerations, Moonves noted, include "Where is it going to do best, [and] where is it going to hurt competitors the most?"

Moonves indicated a third go-round of "Survivor" could be mounted in time for next fall and said there is "a good possibility" the network will proceed with a second edition of its other, less-heralded summer show "Big Brother."

In fact, sources say the producers have begun looking into assembling a production team for that series. All the networks are ordering so-called reality shows for next year as a hedge against possible strikes by the guilds representing actors and writers.

CBS has plenty riding on "Survivor II." Despite success this fall with some of its new shows, the network continues to run third in prime time this season overall and fourth among the young-adult demographics that are primarily used when selling commercial time to advertisers.

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