Nearly 17 million people watched Thursday night's Survivor: Fiji debut that marked the premiere of the long-running CBS reality competition series' fourteenth season.

Survivor: Fiji's 8-9PM ET/PT premiere ranked first in most key ratings categories, according to preliminary Nielsen Live Plus same-day ratings for Thursday, February 8.  The Fiji premiere scored top honors in households with a 9.9/15 ratings/share; among total viewers with 16.68 million; in the Adults 25-54 demographic with a 7/17 rating/share; and among Adults 18-49 with a 5.8/15 rating/share.

The Fiji premiere bested ABC's 8-9PM ET/PT broadcast of Ugly Betty by 9% in households (vs. 9.1/14 rating/share), 35% among Adults 25-54 (vs. 5.2/12 rating/share), 23% in the Adults 18-49 demographic (vs. 4.7/12 rating share) and 17% among total viewers (vs. 14.3 million). 

Survivor: Fiji also topped NBC's broadcast of My Name is Earl at 8PM and The Office at 8:30PM in the Adults 18-49 demographic by 35% (vs. 4.3/11 rating/share).

Overall, Survivor -- excluding last season's Survivor: Cook Islands finale, which aired on a Sunday night -- posted its best viewer delivery and highest ratings among both Adults 18-49 and Adults 25-54 since the show's September 28, 2006 broadcast of Cook Islands' third episode.

One key demographic that Survivor: Fiji did show some weakness in was Adults 18-34, where it placed a strong third behind both Betty and NBC's Earl/Office combo.

Despite the good start (the premiere will likely rank near the tail end of the week's Top 10 most watched television programs when Nielsen's weekly rankings are released on Tuesday) Survivor: Fiji''s 16.68 million viewer average also ranks Fiji as Survivor's least watched premiere. Last fall's premiere of Survivor: Cook Islands, previously the long-running reality show's least watched premiere, averaged 18.00 million viewers.