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Brady Is Emmy Winner but Ratings Loser

Although Buena Vista's The Wayne Brady Show
won four Daytime Emmys last month, including Best Host for Brady and a tie for Best Talk Show with ABC's The View, its performance in the May sweeps was nothing to brag about.

Airing in 26 metered markets, the show saw its rating drop an average of 39% from its lead-in and 37% from its time-period performance last year, according to Nielsen's overnight weighted metered-market ratings. Ratings also are down in 19 of those markets from the February sweeps to the May sweeps.

With the show cleared in 85% of the country for a national launch next fall, it will need to see its ratings improve. But Buena Vista executives, station executives and buyers think the show is up to the challenge.

Buena Vista has made changes to the show throughout the year, with John Redmann joining Bernie Brillstein at the executive producer's helm midseason. It also has made the show faster-paced, with more human-interest elements, man-on-the-street stunts, and opportunities for the multitalented Brady to perform.

"We've done extensive research on this show, and we've found that women just love Wayne. They love him singing with guests, and they love him getting up and dancing," says Holly Jacobs, executive vice president of programming and development for Buena Vista Productions.

Prior to the show's national launch, Buena Vista Television plans to make changes to the set and expand the human-interest stories, she says.

While the household ratings aren't stellar, the show is performing to Buena Vista's satisfaction in its key demo of women 25-54, says Lloyd Komesar, BVT's senior vice president of strategic research. "The ratings tell me we are connecting to a viewer that, from a demo standpoint, is pretty valuable to our stations. We are hitting right now in the heart of the No. 1 daytime demo: women 25-54."

That said, a show still must perform in the household ratings if it's going to stay on the air.

"It's always a concern when a program is not as successful as the show it replaces, and it's a concern if a program has a compatible lead-in and is not able to hold audience," says Bill Carroll, vice president, programming, Katz Television Programming Group. "But it is unfair to take a long-running show and use that as the benchmark for a show that is just going on the air."

Right now, Brady
is being compared year-to-year against the last month of The Rosie O'Donnell Show, which generated strong ratings even as it wound down. It also is being asked to maintain the lead-in audience of strong shows, such as Live With Regis and Kelly
and General Hospital.

On ABC-owned WABC-TV New York, the show is down 29% compared with Rosie
last year, down 28% from its lead-in, and 13% February-to-May.

On Viacom-owned KCAL-TV Los Angeles at 10 a.m., the show turned in a 0.8 rating/3 share in the May sweeps, no change from February but down 47% year-to-year vs. its predecessor in the time slot, Warner Bros.' Judge Greg Mathis.

"The Wayne Brady Show
is absolutely superior in its ratings, in my opinion," says Virginia Hunt, director of programming for the KCBS-TV/KCAL-TV duopoly. But because of other schedule considerations it might not be back next year.

In Chicago, where Brady
airs on Weigel Broadcasting's independent WCIU-TV, the show was downgraded to 10 a.m. from 4 p.m., it did a 0.5/1 in the May sweeps. For the time period, it was a 58% drop sweeps-to-sweeps and a 67% decline from last year.

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.