CBS will rake in big ad bucks during Thursday's Survivor 2 finale - enough to buy an island to use as the backdrop for next season's show.
Advertisers seeking to buy time during the show's two-hour finale are supposedly getting squeezed for $800,000-plus for a 30-second spot.
The most S2 coin was minted from nine major sponsors - who signed season-spanning deals estimated to be worth about $9.74 million each.
At least one well-placed source said CBS was asking for about $12 million for each season-long package - three times as much as last year.
"But when you hear that they're asking for that much money, it doesn't always mean they're getting it," a knowledgeable advertising industry executive cautioned.
Last summer, more than 52 million viewers tuned in for the Survivor finale - and even more viewers are expected this time around.
But unlike such other big TV events - like the Super Bowl or the Academy Awards - Survivor does not air just once a year. Instead of trying to completely milk the finale for megabucks, CBS execs have actually already hit the jackpot with the season-spanning deals.
They employed a similar strategy last summer, but asked their sponsors to spend more than three times as much this time.
Advertising execs said various deals this season locked advertisers into shelling out about $325,000 for one spot a week during the show's 15-episode run, and kept the price low for ads airing during the finale. Most big brands bought two spots per show, an ad industry source said.
And, as part of the deal, some of the show's biggest sponsors - Pontiac, Doritos, Mountain Dew and Target - got their products woven into the show's reward challenges as prizes.
One week the starving group of survivors played to win soda and chips. Last week, Texas truck customizer Colby Donaldson won a Pontiac Aztek.
Experts say the lucrative product placement is worth the hefty price tag because it guarantees exposure - even if viewers click off during the commercials.
"Any name brand is really going to stand out in that show," said Yvonne Tocquigny, president of Austin-based Tocquigny Advertising. "A [brand-name] cereal box on Seinfeld wouldn't stand out in the clutter, but on Survivor brands just shine through."
Meanwhile, to sweeten the pot further, late-to-the party advertisers are scrambling to negotiate for last-minute spots to air during the finale, an ad agency executive said.
"And of course they're going to try to lower CBS' asking price," the executive said, citing the ratings as one of the sponsors' major talking points.
"The ratings for the last few weeks have been flat, which wasn't the case in the first Survivor, where the ratings were trending up continuously."
Not surprisingly, it was Survivor's popularity that allowed CBS to hike its rates far above what it was asking last season.
The higher-rated Survivor 2 has been averaging about 28.1 million viewers each week. Its post-Super Bowl debut last January drew more than 45.3 million pairs of eyeballs.