Mixed Bag for Syndie Sweeps

The results of the February sweeps (Feb. 3-March 2) were a mixed bag, with most rookie shows and some daytime strips showing improvement, whiles some magazines, dating shows and most off-network sitcoms were lower.

Insider was the rookie champ going away, with a 2.9, up 21% over its September debut. It was the third highest-rated magazine show after ET and Inside Edition.

The just-canceled Jane Pauley Show, second in the freshman race with a 1.6 average, was the only new first-run show not up over its debut, finishing unchanged from its premiere.

Tony Danza, which like Insider has already been renewed, averaged a 1.3, up 8%.
Ambush Makeover at a 1.1, was up 22%. Larry Elder, at a 1.0, was up 25%. Pat Croce, with a 0.7, was up 17% and Life & Style with a .6, was up 20%.

Ratings for some veteran shows have probably been affected by the switch to Local People Meters in the three largest markets (New York, L.A. and Chicago). These LPMs were not part of Nielsen's national sample last February, but have been integrated since then, making year-to-year comparisons problematic.

With that caveat, here are the comparisons.

The magazine shows were given a boost last February by coverage of such stories as the Janet Jackson Super Bowl show and the Martha Stewart trial.

This time around, ET and Inside Edition, were off last year's levels by a couple of fingernails, while Access Hollywood, Extra and Celebrity Justice were down double digits.

ET was down 8% from last February to a 5.7, but still trumped all magazines for the 58th sweep in a row and for the first time in nearly six years  was the top rated syndicated magazine in New York, defeating its nearest Gotham rival by 17%. Inside Edition was second, with a 3.8 average, down 3% from last year.

Access Hollywood was down 16% to a 2.7, finishing fourth following Insider. Extra slipped 21% to a 2.3 for fifth place, with its spin-off, Celebrity Justice, down 15% to a 1.1.

There was quite a bit of love lost on the relationship front as well. Blind Date was down 24% to a 1.3, while Elimidate was down 25% to a 1.2. At the top of the game show list, Wheel of Fortune was up 3% to a a 9.9, while Jeopardy improved 6% to an 8.3.

Elsewhere in Access, Everybody Loves Raymond, which now plays on WTBS cable in access, averaged a 7.3, up 28% year-to-year. Seinfeld, in second, was down 3% to a a 6.4, followed by friends, down 8% to a 5.8, and That 70's Show, down 20% to a 3.3 and tied with King of the Hill, which was unchanged.

In daytime, Ellen DeGeneres had the biggest growth spurt and the only double-digit increase over last year among talk shows, up 14% to a 2.4.

The top talker, Oprah, easily bested all competition with an 8.5 average, up 9%. Dr. Phil was up 5% to a 6.0. Live with Regis & Kelly was third with a 3.8, down 7%, followed by Maury, unchanged at a 3.3. Montel was down 4% to a 2.6. Jerry Springer was down 4% to a 2.3, and Starting Over, which was up 9% to a 1.2. Good Day Live, which ends its syndicated run this week, fell 9% to a 1.0.

Judge Judy had no trouble blowing away the court shows with a 5.4 average, up 2% from last year, while fellow Paramount jurist Judge Joe Brown was a solid second at a 3.7 and equaling last year's level.

Third through fifth places were a lot closer. Divorce Court at a 3.0, was up 15% and two tenths of a point ahead of People's Court at a 2.8, which was up 17%, and only a tenth of a point ahead of Judge Mathis at a 2.7, up 13%. Texas Justice was sixth with a 2.1, up 5%, and Judge Hatchett was seventh, unchanged at a 2.0.

Among off-net rookies, the weekly CSI averaged a 5.7, up 33% over its September debut, while Malcolm led all strips with a 3.6, up 29% from its debut. Yes, Dear was next with a 2.0. up 33%, with Fear Factor at a 1,8, up 13%, and Girl Friends at a 1.6, up 14%.

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.