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5th Wheel gets rolling

Universal Worldwide TV executives are hoping their new dating series, The 5th Wheel,
can follow the path paved by the studio's veteran series, Blind Date.

Blind Date, which is currently in its third season in syndication, started slowly in the national ratings and steadily rose throughout its first year into a first-run hit.

"Blind Date
premiered at a 1.3 [national household rating], started getting traction and wound up overall for its first season averaging a 2.0," says Universal Worldwide TV Senior Vice President Matt Cooperstein. "If we can do that with 5th Wheel, we'll be in business."

The 5th Wheel
debuted this fall with a 1.0 national weekly rating and, in its third week, the week ended Oct. 21, pushed its way up to a 1.2, according to Nielsen Media Research. The series currently ranks second out of the four new relationship series in syndication, trailing Warner Bros.' newcomer Elimidate
by two-tenths of a ratings point in the weekly polls.

According to Cooperstein, 5th Wheel
is currently cleared in approximately 75% of the country in late-night time periods, with some early-fringe, daytime and overnight time slots as well.

The studio has wasted little time getting the show upgrades in an effort to improve its national ratings. The show is moving from overnight to 10:30 p.m. on WKCF-TV Orlando, Fla., from 12:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on KSAT-TV San Antonio, and from 2:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on WGNO-TV New Orleans. The series is also adding a second run in New Orleans. Upgrades are pending in Buffalo, N.Y.; Little Rock, Ark.; and Tampa, Fla., Cooperstein says.

"I think people are starting to see that 5th Wheel
is separating itself from the pack of imitators," Cooperstein says. "I just need to get the show in front of more available audiences."