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    "Survivor" Sequel Takes on "Friends"

    Forget rats. CBS hopes its latest batch of castaways feasts on Chandler and Monica.

    In a bid to strip NBC of its Thursday-night dominance, the Eye (smell blood) Network has announced that its much-anticipated reality-show sequel, Survivor: The Australian Outback, will air on Thursdays beginning February 1.

    For weeks, industry types have been wringing their hands over where CBS would place its highly bankable adventure series. Many predicted the series would either return to its Wednesday 8 p.m. slot (where Survivor was hugely successful this summer) or try to take down Friends on Thursdays at 8 p.m.

    The safer bet, most figured, was to stick with Wednesdays. Nine advertisers had plunked down more than $12 million apiece to sponsor the show, and Survivor--with its entirely new cast and backdrop--would be taking a risk by competing against the top-rated sitcom in prime time.

    But hey, Richard Hatch never got anywhere by being safe.

    Still, CBS' move will no doubt give the network a huge boost on Thursdays, when episodes of 48 Hours and Diagnosis Murder were getting pummeled in the Nielsens. Survivor could also exploit NBC's weakness at 8:30 p.m., a time slot in which the sitcom formerly known as Cursed (now The Weber Show) has been bleeding viewers from its Friends lead-in.

    In case you were stranded on an island all summer, the original Survivor was a ratings smash. The series averaged 28.3 million viewers and a 17.0 rating and 30 share in households. Its finale drew 51.7 million viewers, becoming the second most-watched show of the year behind only the Super Bowl.

    Survivor: The Australian Outback will debut January 28 after the Super Bowl, before moving to Thursdays. Two episodes of the series will air on Wednesdays (March 14 and March 21) to make room for CBS' coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

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