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May 16, 2008

Fall Showdown: 'Survivor's' moment of hell

The most interesting battle on the schedule next season is that Fox is gunning to finally take down CBS’ “Survivor.” Fox has lined up its second and third-highest rated reality shows to air head-to-head against CBS’ veteran hit.

In the fall, Fox puts “The Moment of the Truth” against “Survivor.” In the spring, the newly resurgent “Hell’s Kitchen” goes into the spot.

Launched in 2000, “Survivor” has owned its Thursdays at 8 p.m. time period the last couple years. Networks tend to keep their more significant reality shows out of its way. Even as this recent cycle dropped in the ratings (like just about every program on broadcast television), “Survivor” continues to regularly win the slot and provides a strong lead-in for “CSI.” Plus, this latest run was considered by fans the show’s most entertaining in years and, starting this fall, “Survivor” will finally upgrade to high definition. 

Fox and CBS got a taste of how “Truth” might fare against “Survivor” earlier this season. During an off week, when “Survivor” shifted to a Wednesday to make room for CBS’ college bas playoffs, the two shows went head-to-head. “Truth” won.

The stakes here are very high for both networks. Thursdays command the highest ad rates. Yet despite winning the past four seasons overall, Fox routinely comes in fourth place on the richest night of the week. If Fox’s plan is successful, it will give the network a firm 8 p.m. foothold to launch other shows and take their ratings domination to another level.

When asked about the strategy, Fox entertainment chair Peter Liguori initially said what you’d expect: Fox isn't looking at the competition. Fox plays its own game. Etc. etc. etc.

But … c’mon...

"Look, it's eroding!” Liguori said. “It’s an older show. Its eventually going to give up and were trying to accelerate that."

>> For other fall time-period showdowns, see this story in today’s THR.

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