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'Phil' Tops Talkers In First 'Oprah'-Less May in Over Quarter-Century

Dr. Phil was easily the top talk show in the May sweep (April 26-May 23), the first May ratings period in 26 years without Oprah Winfrey. Judge Judy was the top court show by a mile and the top syndicated show in May overall, followed by newcomer Big Bang Theory and game show powerhouse Wheel of Fortune.

Entertainment Tonight continued its magazine dominance, while Anderson was the rookie sweeps champ.

Phil led talkers by 19%, averaging 569,000 more viewers per show than his closest talk competitor, Dr. Oz. Phil scored a 3.1 average national Nielsen rating for the sweep, on par with his May 2011 delivery.

Year-to-year comparisons for some daytime shows may be somewhat skewed since preemptions for news coverage of Osama Bin Laden's death during the May 2011 sweep would have depressed the year-ago ratings for some but not all shows.

Dr. Oz
was a distant second among talkers with a 2.6 average, which was up 18% from last May. Maury's rating increased 4% to a 2.4, tying Ellen, which was up 20% to a 2.4. Live! with Kelly lost 4% to a 2.3, while The Doctors, Rachael Ray, Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos, and Wendy Williams all held steady at 1.6, 1.5, 1.4, 1.3, and 1.1.

Anderson was first-run syndication's rookie champ in the sweep, up 27% from its September debut to a 1.4 average, more than doubling the rating of any other newcomer.

Overall, Judge Judy was the top program in the rating period and did it by recording the best May sweep rating average in the court show's 16-year history, a 6.9. While Judy was up 3% from last May in the National Nielsens, her growth in some key cities was by double and triple-digits. For example, in top market New York, Judy on WCBS was up 31% from May 2011 and won what had been the Oprah time period at 4 p.m. Head to head, Judy beat local news on Winfrey's former station, WABC, by 91%, Ellen on WNBC by 132%, and Dr. Oz on WNYW by 159%.

Other court shows had less than a third the average rating of Judge Judy, with the exception of Judge Joe Brown, the second highest court in the land, which earned a 2.6 verdict, down 4% from last May. People's Court was up 11% to a 2.0. Judge Alex was down 18% to a 1.4, landing in a tie with the marital knot-untying Divorce Court, down 13% to 1.4. Judge Mathis, presided over a lower court, as in 7% lower to a 1.4.

Elsewhere in syndication, it was no surprise that ratings averages for all of the magazines declined from a year ago, when their ratings were boosted by coverage of the royal wedding, Arnold Schwarzenegger's divorce, and news of the former California governor's love child, which he said he had fathered with a member of his household staff.

Entertainment Tonight led the category for the 87th consecutive sweeps, dating back to 1990, with a 3.6 average, off 10% from last May. Inside Edition was down 3% to a 2.9 average. TMZ slipped 5% to a 2.0, Access Hollywood dipped 10% to a 1.8, The Insider was off 11% to a 1.6, and Extra was down 12% to a 1.5.

Game shows were steady to higher. Wheel of Fortune was unchanged from last year at a 6.5 and finished as the third best show in May after Judge Judy and Big Bang Theory. Jeopardy was up 2% to a 5.6, Family Feud was up 30% to a 3.0, and Who Wants to be A Millionaire was up 4% to a 2.5.

Veteran off-net sitcoms were almost universally weaker, although newcomer Big Bang Theory was up a whopping 47% from its September premiere to a 6.6 average.

Two and a Half Men, now in its fifth season, as off 15% to a 5.5; Family Guy was down 16% to a 3.8; sophomore How I Met Your Mother was down 7% to a 2.6, Seinfeld -- in year 17 -- was off 8% to a 2.4, tying King of the Hill, which was flat. Everybody Loves Raymond retreated 12% to a 2.2, Friends finished with a 5% decrease to a 1.9, and That 70's Show was down 29% to a 1.5, tying The Office, which was downsized by 40% in season three.

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.