Headed for its 20th season

Sally Jessy Raphael
is currently in its 19th season in syndication, and Studios USA executives say the veteran talk show will definitely be back next fall for its 20th.

There has been rumbling among station executives and rival syndication studios that the show wouldn't return. But Studios USA Domestic Television President Steve Rosenberg says, "Competitors are going to say things that are sometimes true and sometimes not true. In the case of Sally, it's not true at all. The show has been on the air for 19 years; 60 talk shows have come and gone since it debuted in 1983. It continues to perform better than most syndicated product."

Sally Jessy Raphael
is the longest-running talk show currently in syndication, the third-longest-running in history, behind only Donahue
and Mike Douglas. Rosenberg says a number of top markets are already signed on for the 2002-03 season, notably KTLA-TV Los Angeles, WGN-TV Chicago and KYW-TV Philadelphia. The show's deal with WNBC-TV New York is up at the end of the season, but Rosenberg isn't worried that he'll find a new home in the top market.

This season, the show got a new set, some additional cameras and new producers but didn't have a strong start, averaging a 1.4 national household rating in its first week. Its average rating has risen 29%, to 1.8 in the week ended Dec. 2, according to Nielsen Media Research. But the show is off considerably since its peak years, 1991-92 and 1992-93, when it averaged a 5.5. "We have to admit, there has been a decline in ratings over the last few years," says Rosenberg, adding, "The fact is that Sally beat Montel Williams, Ricki Lake and Jenny Jones in the November sweeps."