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Rachael Ray Cleans Up

Domestic hostess Rachael Ray smoked her rookie competition in their first November sweeps period. Rachael Ray easily outdistanced the other new shows in first-run syndication, averaging a 2.1 rating in households during the Nov. 2-29 period. Rachael was also the only new show to improve its time-period average from November 2005 in metered markets, as stations enjoyed an average 9% bounce.

Geraldo at Large, which is making its national household debut this fall after a limited launch last year, averaged a 1.6. Cristina’s Court was next with a 1.3, followed by Dr. Keith Ablow at a 1.1 and Judge Maria Lopez with a 0.9. Greg Behrendt and Megan Mullally both averaged a 0.8.

Of the veterans, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, Jeopardy!, Dr. Phil and Entertainment Tonight were the only syndicated first-run shows to see year-over-year gains during an otherwise disappointing sweeps period for returning programs. A 6% year-over-year jump to a 3.3 average for Millionaire was the biggest boost for any show. Elsewhere in the game category, which so many syndicators are hot for for next fall, Wheel of Fortune was even at an 8.6, Jeopardy! was up 3% to a 6.8 and Family Feud fell 10% to a 1.8.

Dr. Phil was one of the few bright spots in talk, posting a 2% gain to a 5.6 average, its best November-sweeps performance since 2003. Oprah led the genre as always but fell 13% to a 7.1.

Entertainment Tonight won its 65th straight sweeps period, up 2% on the year to a 5.6 average. Access Hollywood held steady on the year at a 2.7, thanks to a 3.0 average in the final week of the sweeps, its best weekly number since March 2004.

Every court veteran was down or flat on the year, although syndicators continue to eye more entrants. Judge Judy was on top as usual, but even its 4.8 average was slightly off (2%) year-over-year.

The news was also troubling for off-net sitcoms. Everybody Loves Raymond fell 18% to a 5.3, Seinfeld was off 20% to a 4.5 and Friends dropped 31% to a 3.7. These were sharper drops than in the past; all three shows fell exactly 8% from November 2004 to November 2005. As these shows age, they appear to have lost some of their novelty with viewers.