'Dancing with Stars' steps on toes of 'Survivor'
By Steve Gorman
Fri Feb 10, 9:00 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - ABC gained some noteworthy traction in Thursday's prime-time ratings race as "Dancing with the Stars" became the first show since "Friends" to draw more viewers than "Survivor" in head-to-head competition.
The 90-minute broadcast of ABC's sizzling celebrity dance contest averaged a season-high 20 million viewers, with 19.2 million tuning in to the first hour directly opposite "Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island" on CBS, Nielsen Media Research reported on Friday.
"Survivor" ran a close second in its time period with 18.8 million viewers overall but reigned supreme in the 8 o'clock hour among viewers aged 18 to 49, the audience most coveted by advertisers.
The show, an outdoor game of elimination featuring contestants roughing it in picturesque but physically challenging locations, is in its 12th edition.
CBS continued to dominate the night as a whole, posting the top three shows in 18-49 ratings -- "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Survivor" and "Without a Trace" -- and the two most-watched shows overall -- "CSI" and "Trace" (27.4 million viewers, and 20.3 million viewers, respectively).
"Dancing with the Stars," which debuted as a summertime hit last year and returned to the ABC lineup in January, ranked No. 3 for the night in total viewers.
While trailing the latest edition of "Survivor" in the 18-49 race, "Dancing" stomped three NBC comedies that air during the same hour and a half -- "Will & Grace," "Four Kings" and "My Name is Earl."
The struggle for Thursday night supremacy has long been a key battleground in the U.S. prime-time ratings war -- a highly lucrative TV night in which advertisers spend lavishly to reach a young, affluent audience.
NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., once dominated Thursdays with its "Must-See-TV" lineup but fell on hard times after mega-hit comedy "Friends" ended its 10-year run in May 2004.
Since then, CBS has lorded over Thursday nights, but "Dancing with the Stars" on Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC is the first series opposite "Survivor" to score a bigger audience than the CBS reality hit in the post-"Friends" era.
The series features B-list celebrities, including veteran actor George Hamilton, retired football player Jerry Rice and professional female wrestler Stacy Keibler, paired with professional dance partners in ballroom competition