Survivor: Panama -- Exile Island premiered well on Thursday, delivering debut ratings that -- despite the fact that show aired against ABC's Dancing with the Stars 2 midseason hit -- were higher than those of last fall's Survivor: Guatemala edition.

Survivor: Panama averaged 19.2 million viewers, a 7.0/18 rating/share in the Adults 18-49 demographic, a 8.5/20 rating/share in Adults 25-54, and a 5.0/15 rating/share in Adults 18-34 during its 8-9PM ET/PT premiere on Thursday, February 2 -- a performance that placed the debut of long-running reality show's latest edition first in its time period despite facing the show's strongest competition since NBC's Friends left the airwaves in May 2004.

Compared to last fall's Survivor: Guatemala premiere, Survivor: Panama's debut was up 4% in viewers (vs. 18.4 million) and 6% each in Adults 18-49 (vs. 6.6/19), Adults 25-54 (vs. 8.0/21), and Adults 18-34 (vs. 4.7/16).

Unsurprisingly, Survivor: Panama's premiere numbers were down compared to those of last spring's premiere Survivor: Palau, which, with most other networks having had yet to attempt to exploit the weakness of NBC's post-Friends Thursday night lineup, had premiered to 23.66 million viewers. In addition to representing a huge 4 million viewer increase over Survivor's prior Fall 2004 Vanuatu edition, Palau's gigantic Spring 2005 premiere numbers had also represented the franchise's best debut ratings since Survivor: Africa in Fall 2002 -- a performance that no one expected Panama to match given this season's significantly more competitive time period competition that in addition to Dancing with the Stars, also includes The WB and UPN younger viewer magnets Smallville and Everyone Hates Chris.

While Dancing with the Stars also performed well in the hour and demonstrated that as it did when Friends aired, the Thursday 8PM time period can still support more than one hit show, Survivor: Panama beat Dancing in all key demographics during the 8-9PM ET/PT hour in which the shows aired head to head (unlike Survivor, Dancing continued to air until 9:30PM ET/PT.)

Survivor: Panama beat Dancing with the Stars by 7% in viewers (vs. 17.94 million), 56% in Adults 18-49 (vs. 4.5/12), 49% in Adults 25=64 (vs. 5.7/13), and 43% in Adults 18-34 (vs. 3.5/10.) As evident by the numbers, Survivor delivered a significantly younger audience than Dancing with the Stars -- Survivor's median age was 44.3 years compared to Dancing's 54.0 years.