Court shows cook in May

The verdict is in on the syndicated May sweeps and court shows came out the
big winners for the period (April 25 through May 22), at least in terms of the
percentage of shows gaining on last May.

Four of the six court programs were up. By contrast, of the 10 veteran talk
shows, none was up.

In the off-network arena, there were big winners and big losers.

According to Nielsen Media Research numbers, the order in the court was
Judge Judy on top with a 5.7, unchanged from last May; Judge Joe
, up 3 percent to a 3.4; Divorce Court, up 4 percent to a 2.7;
Judge Greg Mathis (in a half-hour version versus an hour last year), up
15 percent to a 2.3; People's Court, up 11 percent to a 2.0; and Judge
, down 5 percent to a 1.8.

The only rookie court show, Texas Justice, was the No. 1 first-run
rookie in the sweep with a 2.2.

Crossing Over with John Edward and The Weakest Link tied for second
among rookies at a 1.9, followed by late-night dating show Elimidate with
a 1.5.

In the key adult 18-through-49 and 18-through-34 demos, however,
Elimidate took top honors among rookies with a 1.0 and 1.2, respectively.

In the talk category, five shows saw double-digit losses from last May.

The Jerry Springer Show, which hit its lowest weekly rating since
October 1996 in the final week of the sweep (the week ending May 26), was down
26 percent for the sweep to a 2.6.

Also at a 2.6 were Montel, down 13 percent, and Rosie
, down 10 percent.

Other talkers with double-digit losses were Rikki Lake, down 22
percent to a 1.8, and the recently canceled Sally Jessy Raphael, down 33
percent to a 1.4.

The top talker was Oprah, down 2 percent to a 5.8, followed by Live
with Regis and Kelly
, down 5 percent to a 3.5. Third was Maury, flat
at a 3.3.

The off-net sitcoms were a mixed bag, with the top two up strongly.

Taking top honors was Friends, up 30 percent to a 6.9 (helping to
boost that rating was a cable run being added to its average that it didn't have
last year), and Seinfeld, up 46 percent to a 6.0 (helped to its massive
increase in part by double runs this year compared with singletons last May).

Going in the other direction were Frasier, down 35 percent to a 3.2;
The Drew Carey Show, down 29 percent to a 2.2; and Third Rock from the Sun, down 34
percent to a 1.9.

Some of that could can be attributed to the good time periods snatched up by
the sweeps' two top-rated rookies, Everybody Loves Raymond (a 5.7) and
King of the Hill (a 3.2).

There was an upset in the movie-review ranks in the last week of the sweep.
For the first time, Hot Ticket edged out Ebert & Roper,
averaging a 1.9 versus Ebert & Roper's 1.8.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.