'Survivor' premiere lowest ever: Should CBS keep changing the title?

survivor-ratings

Survivor returned Wednesday night with a rousing premiere episode, yet the franchise’s ratings continued their steady downward march.

Survivor: Caramoan was down 23 percent from last spring’s Survivor: One World premiere to rate as the show’s lowest-rated premiere ever, with 9 million viewers and a 2.4 rating.

One thing that’s never made sense to me is why, in this era where DVRs are being used in 47 percent of households, CBS changes the title of Survivor for every edition.

As fans know, each cycle of the show has an official location or theme-based subtitle to help distinguish it from previous cycles. But the network could just change the on-screen title while leaving the title on your cable or satellite interactive programming guides as simply “Survivor” instead of making it “Survivor: Caramoan” like it’s a whole new show. That way, Survivor automatically records for those who subscribed during previous rounds instead of making fans actively re-program the title into their DVR twice each season.

It’s not like re-opting is a ton of work. But it’s a step that DVR users don’t have to take for pretty much ever other returning show on the air, so it’s easy to forget. And once you miss the first or second episode of a serialized story, some will say, “Oh, well, I guess I’m behind now,” and not watch. From magazine publishing to web site subscriptions to TV shows, automatic renewal systems are effective, and that’s essentially what a DVR season pass is. (And, yes, next-day ratings like those in this story include DVR playback, up until about 3 a.m. this morning).

Would Survivor ratings still go down nearly every cycle if the name stayed the same? Probably. The show is the oldest broadcast reality competition on the air. But I strongly suspect that if Survivor had never changed its name between cycles instead of doing it every single time, that the show’s current audience would be bigger than it is now.

One more thought: It’s not like Survivor is still doing jaunts to extremely distinct places like China or Africa nowadays. Survivor for many years now has been set in nearly indistinguishable tropical locations. “Caramoan” is just another way of saying “we’re shooting in the Philippines again.” So the subtitle is not even important information at this point.

Check out Dalton Ross’ essential Survivor recap here.

Oh, there was also 14 other shows that aired on broadcast last night. Some quick points:

– The CW’s Arrow managed to deliver slightly more viewers at 8 p.m. (3.3 million) than NBC’s sitcoms (3.2 million average for the hour).

– ABC’s The Middle hit a season low and CBS’ CSI and NBC’s Guys With Kids hit series lows.

Full Chart:

 ADULT DEMO RANK  ADULT DEMO RATING  TOTAL VIEWERS (+000)
FOX 8-10P AMERICAN IDOL #1 4.3 13,366
ABC 8:00P MIDDLE #6t 1.9 7,631
8:30P NEIGHBORS #9 1.7 5,914
9:00P MODERN FAMILY #2 3.8 10,028
9:30P SUBURGATORY #4 2.2 6,071
10-11P NASHVILLE #8 1.8 5,711
CBS 8-930P SURVIVOR: CARA P #3 2.4 8,957
9:30P BIG BANG RS #10t 1.6 5,830
10-11P CSI #5 2.1 9,128
NBC 8:00P WHITNEY #12 1.2 3,579
8:30P GUYS-KIDS #14t 1.0 2,850
9-10P LAW&O:SVU #10t 1.6 6,296
10-11P CHICAGO FIRE #6t 1.9 6,648
CW 8-9P ARROW #13 1.1 3,263
9-10P SUPERNATURAL #14t 1.0 2,469

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