The Eye opens With a twinkle

CBS wins week one; ratings are up, median age is down

The Survivor-network pulled off a week-one upset in the ratings and showed early signs of a network on the decline-in median age, that is.

With the Super Bowl and a second installment of Survivor on tap for winter, CBS was sitting pretty as it carried summer momentum into the fall with strong ratings for both new and returning series. Although it was an irregular first week of the season, with politics and baseball stealing much of the spotlight, CBS showed growth nearly across the board.

"I was impressed with CBS' development, and now I'm impressed with CBS' week-one numbers. If the people liked what they saw as much as I did, I think they are back in week two," says ad buyer Paul Schulman.

The network captured the first week of the 2000-01 season in total viewers, households and even adults 18-49-the demographic that the network has been struggling to attract for a decade. It was CBS' first premiere-week win in adults 18-49 since 1991 and the network's first weekly victory in the category (without sports) in over six years. CBS averaged a 10.0 rating/16 share in households, 14.5 million viewers and a 5.0/13 in adults 18-49-well ahead of both NBC and ABC.

"We were very pleased with what happened, but I'm always hesitant to talk about it because it's only one week," says CBS Television President Les Moonves. "Let's just say I'm cautiously optimistic."

But one strong sign for the network was the median-age average, which fell to 50. Last season, CBS' first week averaged viewers 52.4 years old; the whole season, just over 53.

"Early on, our median age is down a few years, so, clearly, you are seeing some younger people who watched Survivor and saw the promotions," says Moonves.

All five of CBS' new series fared well in their premiere outings, including weekend hours The Fugitive and C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigators. But it was C.S.I. (the Las Vegas-set action series), not The Fugitive, that shined the brightest on the weekend. C.S.I. dominated its Friday 9 p.m. ET/PT time period, bringing in 17.3 million viewers and an 11.8/21 in households, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The Fugitive, easily CBS' most promoted new action series, held its own on Friday night as well. The premiere episode attracted 13 million viewers at 8 p.m. Friday and a 9.3/17 in households. Combining that with the season premiere of Nash Bridges, CBS posted its strongest Friday-night ratings (including adults 18-49) since '94. Saturday's debut of Craig T. Nelson's The District posted strong opening numbers, averaging 14.6 million viewers and a 4.3/13 in adults 18-49.

CBS' Monday-night sitcom block didn't miss a beat. Everybody Loves Raymond started its fifth season with an hour special that attracted 22 million viewers and its strongest demographic ratings ever. New comedy Yes, Dear, with 14.6 million viewers, improved in all demographics for the Monday 8:30 p.m. time period.

The beat kept going for CBS last week, too. The network unveiled new comedy Bette after a Monday night that saw the network dominate with its comedies, and a Tuesday that had drama Judging Amy scoring its best-ever ratings with women. Bette Midler's new comedy debuted Wednesday with 15.2 million viewers, a 5.1/15 in adults 18-49 and time-period bests in every other demo.