Distribution: Syndies Trend Mostly Down in February

The February sweeps ended March 2, and national results aren’t in yet, but a look at how shows fared in the top 25 markets reveals some trends.

Among the top talk shows, CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil retained the overall household ratings lead, but there’s a tight race for bragging rights among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54. Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres tied Disney-ABC’s Live With Kelly and Michael for first place at a 1.5 in the demo, according to Nielsen’s local people meter ratings. Overall, Ellen is the only talker to show growth in the key demo during the sweeps month, moving up 7%. Live, meanwhile, held its ratings both from last year and vs. its lead-ins.

Meanwhile, the so-called conflict talk shows—NBCUniversal’s Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos and Tribune’s Bill Cunningham—all were down significantly year-to-year among women 25-54. Maury declined 20% to a 1.2 from a 1.5; Springer slipped 20% to a 0.8; Wilkos held up the best of the group with a 10% drop to a 0.9. Cunningham, which airs on The CW in daytime, was down 33% year-to-year. All of the conflict talkers primarily air on Tribune-owned stations in top markets.

“Part of the concerns [about the conflict talk shows] have to do with the fact that in many markets the shows are running more than once a day—they have become the entire daytime lineup,” says Bill Carroll, VP, content strategy, Katz Television Group. “Ultimately, that means…there’s a certain amount of viewer fatigue.”

Finally, two shows that won’t return next season—NBCUniversal’s Meredith Vieira and DisneyABC’s FABLife—registered talk’s biggest drops, with Meredith down 43% in women 25-54 compared to last year and FABLife off 38%. Another rookie talker, NBCUniversal’s Crazy Talk, also will not return next season and is shutting down production at the end of this month.

The one newcomer that is expected to be back next year, Warner Bros.’ Crime Watch Daily, is averaging a 0.6 among women 25-54, down 25% from last February’s time-period average and off 14% from its lead-ins. The show did hold its time-period average from the November sweeps, however. Crime Watch Daily airs on many Tribune-owned stations in top markets and recently was moved from 4 to 2 p.m. on WPIX New York.

CTD’s Judge Judy continues to be syndication’s juggernaut. Among women 25-54 in the top 25 markets during the February sweeps, Judy led at a 3.3 average rating, unchanged from last year.

CTD’s Hot Bench, created by Judge Judy Sheindlin, also continues to be a strong story, jumping 29% in the demo compared to last year, when the show didn’t yet air on CBS-owned stations in major markets. Another solid performer in the February sweeps was MGM’s Paternity Court, up 14% in the demo compared both to last February and to leadin. MGM last month decided to stop subscribing to Nielsen for national ratings, so Paternity Court no longer appears on the national ratings chart.

The top game shows are battling it out for first place, with all three—CTD’s Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud—tying at a 1.9 rating among women 25-54 in February in the top 25 markets.

Further back, both Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, renewed for next year, and Debmar-Mercury’s Celebrity Name Game were both down compared to last year. Millionaire, hosted this season by The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison, was off 20% among women 25-54; Celebrity Name Game, hosted by Craig Ferguson, was down 22%. Much of Celebrity Name Game’s drop was due to its being moved to mornings from afternoons in top markets New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Season-to-date, however, Family Feud, hosted by Steve Harvey, leads among women 25-54 in the genre at a 3.4, up 17% compared to last year at this time. Feud also leads all of first-run syndication in the demo and comes in second in overall syndication to only Warner Bros.’ off-net sitcom The Big Bang Theory, which leads at a 3.9.

Meanwhile, all of the top magazine shows were down in the demo compared to last February even though they cover the biggest event of their year, the Academy Awards, during the sweeps. Like network news, entertainment news’ huge presence online continues make a big dent in ratings for those shows; only CTD’s The Insider held steady in February compared to year-ago.

Season-to-date, only Warner Bros.’ Extra is even in the demo compared to last year, while CTD’s Entertainment Tonight declined 11% and CTD’s Inside Edition and Warner Bros.’ TMZ each declined 7%. NBCUniversal’s Access Hollywood was off 9%, while The Insider dipped 14% among women 25-54.

“Viewers go to those shows when something major happens or when there’s an awards show,” says Carroll. “Entertainment news is so pervasive on the Internet, but also it’s pervasive in regular news broadcasts. When that trend happened, it no longer made these shows the exclusive place for entertainment news coverage.”

Paige Albiniak

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.