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'Family Feud' Vaults to First Solo Sweeps Win

Debmar-mercury’s Family Feud, hosted by Steve Harvey, continued its ascent in the May sweeps, taking the solo lead from CBS Television Distribution’s veteran games Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! for the first time since Harvey took over the format in 2010.

In the just-concluded May sweeps that ran April 28 through May 25, Feud, produced by FremantleMedia North America, improved 18% to a 7.1 live-plus-same-day household rating, according to Nielsen. That performance moved the show from third to first place among the games and to second place in overall syndication.

Among women 25-54, Feud was the first-run syndication leader at a 3.5, and tied Warner Bros.’ The Big Bang Theory for the overall syndication demo lead. Feud frequently leads syndication among the key demographic. Following Feud in the demo were Judge Judy at a 3.0 and Wheel at a 2.0.

Feud’s performance in the May sweeps both “shows the strength of Feud and also indicates that Feud airs more often than its competitors,” says Bill Carroll, senior VP, content strategy, Katz Television Group. “The aggregate of all of those airings increases the show’s ratings. That’s not to say anything against the performance of Feud, it just puts it into some context. Wheel runs once a day, while Feud, in many cases, runs four or more times per day.”

In 2011, Nielsen changed the way syndicated shows’ ratings were evaluated, essentially adding together the ratings for all of a show’s daily runs. That’s one reason why strong shows that are run several times daily, such as Feud and CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy, do especially well in the ratings.

Conversely, some shows—including Wheel and Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres—manage to still turn in strong ratings even though they only run once a day for the most part.

“If you were to look at the airings of Wheel in access in almost every circumstance, it’s No. 1 in terms of total audience,” says Carroll.

May to May, Wheel of Fortune was mostly steady, dipping just 2% from last year to a 6.4, while CTD’s Jeopardy! decreased 6% to a 6.0. Debmar-Mercury’s sophomore Celebrity Name Game added 8% to a 1.4, while Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire lost 19% and dropped from fourth to fifth at a 1.3.

Fans Get Their ‘Phil’

Meanwhile, CTD’s Dr. Phil managed to fend off Disney-ABC’s trending Live With Kelly, which saw many days of ratings bumps leading into Michael Strahan’s exit on May 13.

Dr. Phil dipped 3% compared to last May to a 3.2 in households, still the show’s third-best May in the past eight years, and its 14th consecutive sweeps win since November 2011, when it lost to Live while Regis Philbin was taking his retirement tour.

Live, meanwhile, came close to Phil with a 7% gain in May to a 3.1, Live’s best May household average in nine years.

Carroll expects Live’s ratings to remain lively as the show seeks a new cohost for Ripa. In the upcoming weeks guest hosts will include Anderson Cooper, said to be a Ripa favorite for the permanent gig; Josh Groban, who many considered a contender before Strahan was hired; Empire’s Jussie Smollett, who’s already gotten a few days of guest-hosting under his belt; and John Leguizamo, currently starring in Netflix’s Bloodline.

“They’re in a circumstance where the people they bring on to cohost with Kelly are as high profile as their A-level guests,” says Carroll.

Phil and Live tied for the talk lead among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54 each at a 1.5.

Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres declined 4% to a 2.4. NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey moved up from fifth place last year to fourth place this year with a steady 1.8. Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams weakened 6% May-to-May to a 1.6, tying NBCU’s Maury, which was off 16% to a 1.6.

NBCU’s Steve Wilkos held firm at a 1.4, landing in a tie with SPT’s Dr. Oz and CTD’s Rachael Ray, both of which rallied 8%. NBCU’s Jerry Springer slipped 8% to a 1.2. CTD’s The Doctors stayed at a 1.0. Warner Bros.’ The Real retreated 18% from last year to a 0.9 and announced during the sweeps that it was letting go of original cohost Tamar Braxton. NBCU’s Meredith Vieira, which will go off the air at the end of the summer, lost 20% to a 0.8.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ Crime Watch Daily, the only rookie that will graduate to a sophomore season, improved 13% from its September premiere to a 0.9. Disney-ABC’s FABLife fell 13% from its September debut to a 0.7, while NBCU’s Crazy Talk sagged 17% to a 0.5.

Courting Success

Finally, court shows proved to be syndication’s strongest category, with four of six strips up, one down and one even with last May.

Judge Judy remains syndication’s strongest show, leading the courts and all of syndication in the May sweeps. Judy, which has been syndication’s May sweeps leader for the past nine years, jumped 7% to a 7.2, matching its second-highest rating since 2008.

Judy’s offspring, CTD’s Hot Bench, scored the largest sweeps-to-sweeps increase of any syndicated series, adding 25% from last year and finishing as daytime’s fourth-ranked strip behind Judy, Dr. Phil and Live. Warner Bros.’ People’s Court climbed 6% to a 1.8.

Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis moved up 8% to a 1.4. Twentieth’s Divorce Court, which recently hired a new executive producer, tumbled 20% to a 1.2. Trifecta’s Judge Faith was flat at a 0.8.

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.