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CBS Stations Put Their Faith in 'Judy'

With The Oprah Winfrey Show ending its run, CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy can now rightly assume the title of “Queen of Daytime.”

After 16 years on the air, Judy is syndication’s top-rated show, consistently climbing higher than a 6.0 live-plussame- day household rating and beating two other syndication heavyweights, CTD’s Wheel of Fortune and Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men. In recent years Judy and Oprah—which concluded in May—went back and forth claiming the top and second-place spots in the ratings.

In a move that could send Judy’s ratings even higher, CBS Television Stations are moving the show to 4 p.m. —syndication’s most coveted daytime slot—in Los Angeles this fall and Miami in September 2012. In Los Angeles, the station is flipping Judy and Dr. Phil, while in Miami, WFOR will take Judy away from Post-Newsweek’s ABC affiliate WPLG. The CBS-owned station group already airs Judy at 4 p.m. in the nation’s largest market, New York, and in Chicago and Boston.

“We are trying to take advantage of Oprah’s audience,” Peter Dunn, president of the CBS Television Stations, told B&C. “Judge Judy is compatible with Dr. Phil, but she attracts more men so she’s a better news lead-in. Overall, Dr. Phil and Judge Judy are the two best syndicated shows we can put in early fringe.”

On KCBS Los Angeles, Judy and Phil will swap slots, with Judy airing at 4 p.m. and Phil at 3 p.m. Previously, Phil could not air at 3 p.m. because of a clause in the contracts of all of the Oprah spinoffs—Phil, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray and Nate Berkus—that they could not air in direct competition with Oprah, which aired at 3 p.m. on KABC in Los Angeles. Now stations are free to move Phil where they please, which will result in some upgrades in other markets this fall.

In recent years, Dr. Phil’s ratings declined, but the show saw a nice uptick this season. In the top-three markets, Dr. Phil is up 18 to 32% in households and 13 to 133% among women 25-54. On WCBS New York alone, Dr. Phil improved by 20% in homes and 55% among women 25-54 this May over May 2010. To promote Judge Judy and the shift, CBS shot promos in which the show’s star, Judge Judy Sheindlin, strides through the local cityscape like a legal Godzilla, although she deftly avoids smashing any sedans under her heel.

“That locally customized promotion ran in all of those markets, and it’s really helped us grow viewership,” Dunn says. “In New York, it ran as a theatrical trailer.”

Dunn: Still deciding on Denver ‘Oprah’ slot

Dunn says that these changes are among only a very few that the group is making to its syndication lineups. Beyond the schedule swaps in Los Angeles, the other changes that CBS needs to make come in Denver, Minneapolis and Miami, where the group is filling Oprah timeslots. In Denver, Dunn’s still not sure what the station is going to do. Warner Bros.’ Ellen is getting an upgrade to 4 p.m. in Minneapolis, while Dr. Phil will take the 4 p.m. slot in Miami until Judge Judy joins the lineup in fall 2012.

Says Dunn: “We are now pretty much the most stable of the station groups, which obviously advertisers like and our viewers like.”

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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.