Judge Judy Extends Ratings Reign

Why This Matters: February sweeps are still important, especially for stations in small markets that don’t employ local people meters.

Even after 23 years in syndication, CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy presided over the February sweeps, which ran Jan. 31 through Feb. 27. While sweeps are increasingly considered a ratings relic due to the overall decline of linear TV and the rise of more precise, market-based measurement, shows still enjoy claiming bragging rights.

The February sweeps tend to be the year’s highest-rated ratings period due to short days and cold nights that keep people at home. But ratings for linear television are falling across the board, and syndication is no exception.

That said, Judge Judy managed to hold steady with the prior February when many shows were either pre-empted or retitled as a result of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Judy remained at a 7.8 live-plus-same-day household average, according to Nielsen Media Research, and led all of syndication for the 11th major sweep out of the past 12.

Judy also matched the show’s third-highest household rating in a February sweep in the past decade and led the field by the highest margin in the show’s 23-year history, beating the three top game shows (which tied for first in that genre) by more than a full ratings point in households.

Achievement Awards from NATAS

Judge Judy star Judge Judy Sheindlin, along with French chef and PBS star Jacques Pépin, will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences at the Daytime Emmy awards. Judge Judy has been named outstanding legal/courtroom program by NATAS three times: in 2013, 2016 and 2017, after the category was added in 2008. The Daytime Emmys Creative Arts Awards take place on Friday, May 3, at the Pasadena Civic Center, and the 46th annual Daytime Emmys will be held at the same location on Sunday, May 5.

Returning to the February sweeps, many syndies, including Judy, took a hit on the ratings period’s final day, Wednesday, Feb. 27, when TV viewers were glued to the testimony of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, before the House Oversight Committee.

CTD’s Hot Bench was the only other courtroom series besides Judy to avoid sweep-to-sweep declines, holding steady for the year at a 2.5 household average and ranking as the sweep’s third-highest strip in daytime behind only Judy and CTD’s top talker Dr. Phil.

CTD’s Dr. Phil remained syndication’s top talker with episodes such as “Our Lying Ex- Boyfriend is the Next Dirty John” and “The BTK Killer’s Daughter Speaks Out.” The show lost 14% compared to last year to decline to a 3.2 household sweep average. But Phil still easily finished first among talkers for the eighth straight February and the 22nd consecutive major sweep. In addition, Phil led among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54 with a 1.4.

Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres and Disney’s Live with Kelly and Ryan continued to face off for second place, with Ellen declining 15% to a 2.3 to tie Live, which eased 4%. Last year, Live was 0.3 behind Ellen in the February sweep, although Ellen, which airs on NBC-owned stations in big markets, likely saw a boost from the Olympics in 2018.

Rounding out the top five were NBCU’s Maury and Steve, both of which held steady at a 1.5 and 1.4, respectively. Steve, starring Steve Harvey, also was the only talker in the top seven to hold all of its women 25-54 rating from last year with a steady 0.6. That said, Steve remains on track to end its run on NBC after this season.

CTD’s Rachael Ray retreated 8% to a 1.2 to tie both NBCU’s Steve Wilkos and Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams, both of which were unchanged sweep to sweep.

Wendy had been trending upward, especially with guest host Nick Cannon on Feb. 4-6, but the show lost ground when it went into reruns in the final three days of the February sweep, with host Williams still out on sick leave. Williams returned to her show on Monday, March 4.

Jerry O Gets His Own Show

Meanwhile, another of Williams’s fill-in hosts, Jerry O’Connell, is getting his own shot at a talk show with Jerry O, co-produced by Debmar-Mercury and Funny or Die, launching a three-week test on Fox Television Stations starting Aug. 12.

In access, the games finished February with a three-way tie for first. Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud faded 3% to a 6.7. Also at a 6.7 were CTD’s Jeopardy!, which slipped 1% and saw its longtime host, Alex Trebek, announce on March 6 that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The indefatigable Trebek was back taping shows on the Jeopardy! set on Monday, March 11, diagnosis or no. CTD’s Wheel of Fortune, which was flat year to year, also tied for first place among the games.

The magazines also saw lots of ties. CTD’s Entertainment Tonight and Inside Edition led the category, with ET unchanged from last year and Inside Edition down 3% to a 3.2. NBCU’s Access and Warner Bros.’ TMZ matched each other for third with both shows steady at a 1.4. And Warner Bros’ Extra and CTD’s sophomore DailyMailTV paired up at a 1.1. Extra, which airs on large-market NBC stations through the end of this season and then moves to Fox, fell 15% from its Olympics-boosted prior year. Mail remained on par with its rookie season.

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.