Scheduling history: The cultural phenomenon that was season one of Survivor aired on Wednesday, and then the show became a regular season fixture on Thursday for almost exactly a decade. It's returned to the lead-off role on Wednesday for the last few years.
See (who saw) how it all began: Survivor was one of those big-time unscripted franchises of today that once debuted in the summer! On 5/31/00, it got 15.51 million viewers and a 6.1/20 in the demo. Even ten years ago, this was a great start for a summer show. But it was only the beginning. It climbed almost 25% to a 7.5 in week two, then another 25% to a 9.4 in week three, and three weeks later its demos were in the double digits. For a summer show! I'd say more about Survivor's phenomenal first season, but I wouldn't want to ruin the next segment...
The best of times: The two-hour season 1 finale of Survivor was a series high, with a freaking unbelievable 51.69 million viewers and a 22.8/54 in the demo. Yes, over half of the TV watchers on 8/23/00 in Survivor's timeslot were watching Survivor. So monstrous was this result that the next original episode of the show five months later scored a lower demo... not a surprising stat at all till you hear that said episode aired after the Super Bowl. Still, the measly 21.6 demo for the season 2 premiere launched the most consistently stout season overall. No all-new episode of the show scored below an 11.2 in the demo, and the clips episode of that season was still pretty amazing with a 9.7.
The worst of times: Survivor's gone downhill quite a bit since those first couple seasons but has pretty much always been a force in primetime. Most of the bleeding has happened in two periods: the 2001-02 season, in which those two cycles simply came down to earth after the monstrous first two seasons, and then from about 2004-05 through 2007-08, when both the fall and spring cycles typically took big year to year hits. From then, it was relatively stable until the spring 2011 season when it had to regularly face American Idol for the first time in 22 seasons. The show then had another bad spring in 2012, as a show that had gone 23 seasons without going sub-3.0 went below that mark for all but three episodes. The series low is the 1.5 demo for the spring 2016 reunion.
Then vs. now: Survivor was not usually the #1 option for CBS on Thursday nights. It was the all-star of the night in the very early 2000s, but by the 2002-03 season it was being easily outshone by CSI, and that pretty much remained the case until around spring of 2009. But though it didn't maintain the absolutely mammoth Nielsens of its first couple seasons, it has remained at worst a very solid option for an incredibly long time, and its consistency in the late aughts only made it look better and better as much of primetime has collapsed around it, including longtime lead-out CSI. The move to Wednesday might have appeared a possible hiccup, but it mostly pulled it off seamlessly. The raw numbers continue to decline, but it's still not gotten all that much weaker in the relative landscape than it was a decade ago. The end is not in immediate sight right now.
Adults 18-49 info by season:
|1||Summer 2000||Wednesday 8:00||12.07||6.1||22.8||detail|
|2||Spring 2001||Thursday 8:00||12.57||+4%||11.2||15.9||detail|
|4||Spring 2002||Thursday 8:00||8.66||-31%||7.5||10.4||detail|
|5||Fall 2002||Thursday 8:00||8.61||+1%||7.0||9.9||detail|
|6||Spring 2003||Thursday 8:00||7.74||-11%||6.1||9.3||detail|
|7||Fall 2003||Thursday 8:00||8.08||-6%||7.0||9.7||detail|
|8||Spring 2004||Thursday 8:00||8.35||+8%||6.3||10.6||detail|
|9||Fall 2004||Thursday 8:00||7.29||-10%||6.0||7.8||detail|
|10||Spring 2005||Thursday 8:00||7.55||-10%||6.5||9.1||detail|
|11||Fall 2005||Thursday 8:00||6.58||-10%||5.7||7.7||detail|
|12||Spring 2006||Thursday 8:00||5.81||-23%||4.6||7.0||detail|
|13||Fall 2006||Thursday 8:00||5.46||-17%||4.3||6.5||detail|
|14||Spring 2007||Thursday 8:00||4.65||-20%||4.1||5.7||detail|
|15||Fall 2007||Thursday 8:00||4.72||-13%||4.5||5.2||detail|
|16||Spring 2008||Thursday 8:00||4.16||-10%||3.8||4.8||detail|
|17||Fall 2008||Thursday 8:00||4.19||-11%||3.8||4.5||detail|
|18||Spring 2009||Thursday 8:00||3.91||-6%||3.5||4.5||detail|
|19||Fall 2009||Thursday 8:00||3.86||-8%||3.4||4.4||detail|
|20||Spring 2010||Thursday 8:00||3.91||0%||3.4||4.5||detail|
|21||Fall 2010||Wednesday 8:00||3.68||-5%||3.2||4.1||detail||B+|
|22||Spring 2011||Wednesday 8:00||3.27||-16%||3.1||4.0||detail||B-|
|23||Fall 2011||Wednesday 8:00||3.35||-9%||3.1||4.0||detail||B|
|24||Spring 2012||Wednesday 8:00||2.83||-14%||2.3||3.2||detail||C-|
|25||Fall 2012||Wednesday 8:00||2.86||-15%||2.3||3.2||detail||C|
|26||Spring 2013||Wednesday 8:00||2.56||-9%||2.2||2.9||detail||B|
|27||Fall 2013||Wednesday 8:00||2.47||-14%||1.9||2.7||detail||C+|
|28||Spring 2014||Wednesday 8:00||2.39||-7%||1.9||2.6||detail||B|
|29||Fall 2014||Wednesday 8:00||2.32||-6%||1.8||2.8||detail||B+|
|30||Spring 2015||Wednesday 8:00||2.26||-5%||1.8||2.5||detail||B+|
|31||Fall 2015||Wednesday 8:00||2.11||-9%||1.7||2.5||detail||B|
|32||Spring 2016||Wednesday 8:00||2.00||-11%||1.5||2.2||detail||B|
Historical-adjusted ratings by season:
|5||Fall 2002||194||big hit||2.82||-2%||158||223||216||223|
|6||Spring 2003||174||big hit||2.54||-13%||137||209||205||200|
|7||Fall 2003||199||big hit||2.90||+3%||172||239||207||239|
|9||Fall 2004||179||big hit||2.61||-10%||147||192||192||184|
|10||Spring 2005||185||big hit||2.70||-10%||160||224||224||192|
|11||Fall 2005||162||big hit||2.36||-9%||140||190||163||190|
Not included in averages are the post-Super Bowl episodes: 45.37m, 21.8/48 on 1/28/01; and 33.53m, 14.9/37 on 2/1/04.
For more on The War of 18-49, my look at the history of primetime TV's veteran shows, see the Index.