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Odds on Survival

According to off-shore Internet betting site, Ryan the produce clerk (6-5) and Nicole the massage therapist (5-8) are the most likely to be the first ones voted off the island in CBS's latest Survivor incarnation, Survivor: Pearl Islands, which debuts Sept. 18. Voted most likely to succeed by the handicappers: Trish the sales exec (4-1) and Burton the marketing exec (5-1), suggesting that their "client-manipulation skills" could come in handy. An Intertops source said about $120,000 has been bet on the first episode, but they don't look for big bucks being laid down on the show, saying Cupid, Big Brother and Paradise Hotel tend to generate more action.—J.E.

Sisco Sharing

NBC's proposed takeover of Vivendi Universal's U.S. entertainment assets isn't stopping Vivendi-owned USA Network from sharing shows with NBC rivals. USA plans to repurpose ABC new series Karen Sisco (right), a drama about a gutsy and glamorous U.S. marshal in Miami. USA will air Sisco episodes eight to 14 days after their first plays on ABC. The drama debuts on ABC Oct. 1 and on USA Oct. 11 at 11 p.m. ET. USA plans to air it on Saturday nights. Karen Sisco is part of the Universal family, though. It is produced by Jersey Television in association with USA Network's corporate cousin, Universal Network Television.—A.R.

SPI: Spot Price Investigation

With shows like CSI, Survivor and Friends pulling in $400,000 (or close to it) per 30-second spot, Thursday night remains the priciest night of network television. But some advertisers, like movie studios, are paying huge premiums to be in certain Thursday-night shows. Take CSI (right), for example. As reported in B&C's pricing survey this week (see page 3), the average price of a :30 in the show this fall is an estimated $400,000. But sources familiar with the situation say some advertisers have paid as much as $600,000. Similar story for Friends: The B&C survey puts the average price at $380,000, but one buyer, representing a lot of studio money, reports paying an average $570,000 for the show. "For some advertisers who feel they gotta be there, it's just the cost of doing business," says one TV exec.—S.M.

Univision Hits a Wall

Last week's expected approval of the Univision/Hispanic Broadcasting merger was delayed by stinging dissents by Democrats and their Republican counterparts' last-minute need to address them. The merger's go-ahead is expected to be announced early this week. A Sept. 11 Wall Street Journal story revealing extensive details of dissents—centered on their belief that Spanish-language media should be considered a separate market—generated heavy speculation among Washington telecom lawyers that the Democrats violated FCC protocol by leaking internal documents prior to official merger approval. The leak appeared timed to the day Senate debate opened on a "legislative veto" of the FCC's new media-ownership rules. The merger is snared in the larger debate over media concentration because it combines the country's largest Spanish-language TV and radio groups.—B.M.

Clear Sailing?

There's great irony in media-concentration opponents' jubilation over a federal court stay of the FCC's (mostly) relaxed broadcast-ownership rules. The ruling freed radio giant Clear Channel—the prime target of activists' ire—from new restraints imposed by the FCC. While CBS and Viacom won't be able to take advantage of modestly higher TV-ownership caps, Clear Channel Chairman Lowry Mays and other radio owners will no longer be bound by tighter local radio limits, the one move in which the FCC made things tougher on broadcast companies.—B.M.