August 05, 1998 12:00 AM

If you watched the “Survivor” finale on Thursday night, you were not alone. The two-hour CBS tropical island spectacle drew 51.7 million viewers, making it the second most-watched TV show this year, behind ABC’s broadcast of the Super Bowl, which drew 88.4 million. CBS had been expecting to draw between 35 million and 40 million viewers, which were essentially the numbers for the “Town Hall” meeting hosted by Bryant Gumbel that followed the finale. “I didn’t have any idea who would be or who wouldn’t be watching,” the $1 million winner, Richard Hatch, 39, told reporters on Thursday. “But I did tell CBS that I thought it would be their highest-rated show ever.” Not true, Rich. That would still be the 1983 series finale of the sitcom “M*A*S*H*,” with 106 million viewers, making it the most-watched show ever. (But take into consideration that this was before cable programming siphoned off viewers from the Big Three networks.) By further comparison, this year’s March 26 Oscarcast drew an audience of 46.3 million, while the final episode of NBC’s “Seinfeld” drew 76.3 million sets of eyeballs on May 14, 1998.

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