As "Survivor: Philippines" -- the competition show's 25th edition -- begins, Jeff Probst is envisioning a time when the franchise will have its own torch snuffed out.
"I don't know how much longer we have," says the Emmy-winning host. "I have to say: If you stick around for the 25th (edition) and the 26th, then you'll be hooked."
"Survivor: Philippines" premieres 8 p.m. EDT Wednesday on CBS.
Budget cuts already have "Survivor" basically staying in the same neck of the world, whereas earlier editions had the game hopping from the South Pacific region to Africa and beyond.
"Survivor" faces strong challenges. Fox's "The X-Factor," which boasts Britney Spears as a judge this season, could siphon some of "Survivor's" audience. During the second half of the season, Fox's "American Idol" always wins the time period against "Survivor."
Probst says "Survivor" needs to get its audience back. The 24th edition, dubbed "One World," was "a letdown."
"We have to see if our fans are still loyal enough to stick around," he says. "I don't know (if they are). We'll see."
Executive producer Mark Burnett and Probst recognize the value of having former players come back to the show each season. This is in contrast to the early days of "Survivor," when producers didn't want references made to previous seasons in order to keep things feeling current.
Now, every season contains at least one past favorite.
"Our fans like their stars, especially for a show that's long in the tooth," Probst says. "It's a little bit of a hook. It's like (having) a guest star."
"Facts of Life" star Lisa Whelchel and former National League Most Valuable Player Jeff Kent are among the contestants this time around. And past favorites Michael Skupin, Jonathan Penner and Russell Swan are on board again. For Skupin, it's a chance for redemption after he fell into a fire during his first time on the show and had to quit the game.