Rachael Ray Rules in Ratings

The newly merged CBS Television Distribution Group’s (CTDG’s) Rachael Ray debuted in the Nielsen national syndication rankings during the week ended Sept. 24 with the best talk show launch numbers in four years and second best in the past decade.

The fast-talking Ray earned a 2.3 rating in 98% of the U.S., despite having daytime lead-ins below a 1 rating in five of the top-seven markets.

Among all 13 talk shows, it finished fourth in household ratings behind CTDG’s top dogs Oprah, Dr. Phil and Buena Vista Television’s Live with Regis & Kelly. It was also fourth in women 25-54 (1.6 rating) and, along with Maury in the mix, fifth in women 18-49 (1.3 rating).

Ray’s debut was the highest-rated since Dr. Phil’s 4.4 premiere rating in stronger time periods in September 2002. Telepictures launched Rosie O’Donnell at a 3.2 rating in some major market afternoon time periods in September 1996.

Next among the new crop of syndicated shows, Twentieth TV’s Geraldo At Large, appearing in its second week in national syndication, remained unchanged at a 1.6 rating in 76% of the country.

Twentieth’s Christina’s Court held the third spot with a 1.4, up 8% from its first week number of a 1.3. Among women 25-54, it averaged a 0.7.

NBC Universal’s younger-skewing Megan Mullally, airing in high-visibility time periods on NBC O&Os, debuted with a 0.9 rating in 97% of the U.S. In comparison, NBC U’s Jane Pauley, cancelled after one season, started off in September 2004 with a 1.6 rating amid a blizzard of publicity.

Mullally tied with Telepictures’ Dr. Keith Ablow in its second week of airing in 98% of the U.S. Its first week ratings are being reprocessed by Nielsen.

This week, Nielsen was reprocessing ratings for four of 11 first-run and off-network rookies airing on CW 100-plus stations: Sony’s Judge Maria Lopez,Greg Behrendt, BVT’s Scrubs and CTDG’s Still Standing.

Two big returning shows from CTDG made their season debuts: Oprah, beginning her 21st season, launched with a 6.5 rating, down 7% from a year ago (which was not a debut week).

In its official debut week, Dr. Phil climbed 7% to 5.3 from originals the prior week, but down 8% from a non-premiere week a year ago.

And in its second week with actor John O’Hurley as the new host of Tribune’s Family Feud, the show garnered a 1.6, off 6% from week one and 11% from last year.

Of the freshmen off-network crop, According to Jim opened with a 1.8 rating in 90% of the country, while One on One was flat in week two at a 0.9.

For new off-net weeklies, CSI Miami rose 7% in week two to 4.5 from 4.2, while the debut of Without a Trace earned a 2.7 in 97% of the country.