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`Survivor II’ raises all boats at CBS

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The last person left standing on “Survivor: The Australian Outback” may take home $1 million, but the real winner is CBS.
Most of the advertising time for “Survivor II” was sold in advance to nine sponsors, who are each paying about $12 million for spots on each episode, local spots on CBS-owned stations and ads on a special “Survivor” Web site.
Their logos appear in all print ads promoting the show, and each advertiser receives product placement in the series. People close to the deals said the cost is three times what advertisers had to pay the first time around. According to Competitive Media Reporting, at least seven charter advertisers paid more than $5 million for ad packages on the original “Survivor.” If the threefold increase is accurate, some advertisers could be paying up to $15 million or more for package sponsorships.
Sponsors for “Survivor II” include Anheuser-Busch’s Budweiser, PepsiCo’s Doritos, Schering-Plough Corp.’s Dr. Scholl’s, General Motors Corp., Reebok International Ltd., Target Corp., Visa International, Cingular Wireless and Pepsi’s Mountain Dew brand.
The network is getting not only record ad rates for the show itself but is also seeking premiums on what it usually charges for shows whose numbers have been driven upward by viewers who don’t bother to change the channel. According to media buyers who have considered and rejected these opportunities, the package deals are attractive but expensive.
“Survivor II’s” halo effect has boosted ratings for CBS’s hit series “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” which immediately follows, as well as for David Letterman and Craig Kilborn’s late shows. The boost even carries over to CBS’s “The Early Show” Friday mornings; “The Early Show” also benefits from getting first crack among morning shows at banished contestants. On Monday night, Mr. Letterman gets the survivor who was bumped; on Tuesday, Mr. Kilborn gets him or her. This is driving Mr. Kilborn’s numbers for adults 18 to 49 up 27 percent and Mr. Letterman’s numbers are up 16 percent.
CBS will win the February sweeps in both households and total viewers, compared with a third-place finish in November. Excluding the Olympics, this will be the network’s first February household sweeps win since 1993.
Jon Freedman, associate director at OMD USA, said his clients had a quarter of the “Survivor” sponsorship positions, which they bought early, before CBS began offering peripheral deals. He says he thinks that despite steep rates “Survivor” gives good value. “Water-cooler talk is
important. `Survivor’ makes noise in the office. It’s nice for an advertiser to be associated with that.”
Mr. Freedman is encouraging his clients to take advantage of this buzz with locally based spinoffs like Survivor Sweepstakes and a Create Your Own Survivor Trip competition. “This show has legs and really lends itself to some hot ideas.”
Larry Blasius, senior vice president/director of national broadcast for TN Media, New York, says he has one participating advertiser who is satisfied with the results he’s getting from “Survivor II,” but over the long haul, Mr. Blasius doesn’t think the program is as good a deal as it was last summer. Nevertheless, he admires CBS’s approach to getting the most out of this hit. “It really has succeeded for them on a variety of different levels, from a vehicle to promote local news to a way to drive viewers to the early morning show and an opportunity to provide something exclusive on late night.”
Bob Igiel, president of the broadcast division for Media Edge, who walked away from “Survivor II” for all his clients but Ericsson, says CBS is marketing the show well. “As a buyer, I want things to be priced lower, but value to a client starts with the success of a show.”
If Mr. Igiel were calling the shots at CBS, he’d consider running repeats on a cable network where viewer expectations are lower. He’d also polish up the Web site. “It should be dazzling visually, and I don’t think it is.”
“Survivor” Producer Mark Burnett appears to agree. In an interview with Electronic Media in January, Mr. Burnett said he saw great opportunities for putting outtakes from “Survivor” on the Internet. “Our shooting ratio is 100 hours to one. We could put at least 12 hours of outtakes on the Web site. Shows that are scripted don’t have anything like that. This really lends itself well to convergence.”
Mr. Burnett is also understandably bullish about the sponsorship-advertising model, where he reportedly got 50 percent of the ad revenues from the “Survivor” finale and reunion show Aug. 23. Mr. Burnett is rumored to have an even fatter guarantee on license fees and ad revenue sharing on two more new “Survivor” series next season and beyond.
CMR estimates that “Survivor” took in $59.2 million in gross ad revenue. Given the rumored ad increases, CBS and Mr. Burnett could see “Survivor II” gross more than $180 million.
“I’m willing to work hand in hand with the advertisers to make sure that they are getting an associative value beyond just the show. I’m doing nothing new. This is what happened in the ’50s with `Texaco Theater’ and P&G owning shows. I’m not breaking new ground, but it’s working,” Mr. Burnett said.