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Big Apple Polish for 'ET'

Call it the New York effect. In May, Paramount's magazine strip leader Entertainment Tonight posted a 46% year-to-year increase on WCBS New York, where it has lagged over the past two seasons. Its performance in the No. l market may have contributed to its national rating on par with the year-ago period, at a 5.1.

The huge gain in New York, the show's best in the market in five years, could be attributed to a variety of factors, including the O&O's improved prime time performance. That, in turn, has a ripple effect across the entire schedule, with more viewers seeing promos for the show. Perhaps it is the result of the extra effort that Paramount put into sending anchor Mary Hart to the Big Apple for a week during sweeps.

Or maybe Nielsen's new local people meters (LPMs) had something to do with the surge. Until now, those who work on syndicated shows had a relatively dependable way of predicting their future: the direction of the Nielsen measurement needle from May to May. Nielsen, however, has made apple-to-apple comparisons more difficult over the past year with the integration of LPMs into the national barter syndication ratings sample. The ratings service has introduced the meters in five of the six top markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and San Francisco. In May 2004, only Boston had the measurement system.

Nationally, despite the challenge presented by LPMs, The Oprah Winfrey Show and The Ellen DeGeneres Show prospered in the May sweeps. The veteran and the sophomore each gained 11%, the biggest rise by any talk show. Other outcomes seemed harder to discern in Nielsen's new world. For instance, Paramount's Montel dipped from a 2.5 to 2.4, while NBC Universal's Starting Over declined from a 1.2 to 1.1.

Court shows, including leader Judge Judy, continued to rock, with or without LPMs (explaining the avalanche of new ones set for fall 2006).

The access daypart proved a little dicier. King World's No. 2 magazine Inside Edition was even with last year, at a 3.3, while Paramount's rookie strip The Insider (2.7), which faced preemptions in May for local Survivor and Everybody Loves Raymond specials, sparked with a 13% gain over its September premiere. It earned the No. 3 spot ahead of NBC Universal's older Access Hollywood, which declined 7% to a 2.6—a drop-off small enough that it may be attributed to LPMs.

Raymond did the best of the off-network sitcoms, benefiting from hype around the series finale and TBS cable airings now included in its average. King World's Jeopardy! scored, thanks to its heavily promoted Ultimate Tournament of Champions.