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At Season's End, Most ofWhat Grows Are Declines

Showing growth was a badge of honor for syndicated shows at the end of the 2012-13 TV season, with yearto- year improvement being much more the exception than the norm.

Among talk shows, only three improved in household ratings from last season, with the top finisher being Warner Bros.’ Ellen, up 4% to a 2.5 live-plus-same-day national household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. Also in the black were NBCUniversal’s Steve Wilkos, up 8% to a 1.4, and Debmar- Mercury’s Wendy Williams, up 9% to a 1.2.

“Anytime a show that’s been on for a while is able to grow audience, that’s a good thing,” says Bill Carroll, VP, programming, Katz Television Group.

CBS Television Distribution’s talk leader, Dr. Phil, was flat for the season at a 3.0 but led the talk genre by a wide margin, beating Disney/ABC Television’s Live! With Kelly and Michael by four-tenths of a ratings point and by 500,000 viewers. Phil also improved 6% among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54, leading all talkers with a 1.7.

“I have to give [Dr. Phil’s team] credit for refocusing the show more on its roots,” says Carroll. In 2009, Dr. Phil faced steep license-fee cuts after the show’s ratings dropped, but today the show appears to be fully back on track.

It also was a good year for Live!, which added Michael Strahan as Kelly Ripa’s cohost last September. Live! ended the season down 4% in households, or one-tenth of a ratings point, but it was steady in every demographic and was up 9% among women 18-49 and 10% among people 25-54.

Still, the year’s biggest surprise was a talk rookie.

“This year’s biggest winner was Steve Harvey, hands down,” says Carroll. NBCU’s Harvey, produced by Endemol USA, airs at 3 p.m., leading into Ellen on most NBC-owned stations. Averaging a 1.6 rating/5 share in the weighted metered markets, Harvey this season improved its time periods by 45% and its lead-ins by 23%.

Conversely, “the surprise disappointment was probably Ricki Lake,” Carroll says. Twentieth launched Ricki last fall. “Most people believe that show had all the right elements, it just unfortunately never came together.”

Ricki, like CBS Television Distribution’s Jeff Probst, will not return this fall.

Magazines Down

Other genres did not fare so well. Every entertainment magazine was down for the season, with CTD’s Entertainment Tonight dropping 3% in households and 10% among women 25-54. CTD’s Inside Edition also fell 3% in households and 12% among women 25-54. Warner Bros.’ TMZ fell 5% in households but held steady among women 25-54. NBCU’s Access Hollywood lost 11% in households and 8% among women 25-54. Warner Bros.’ Extra dropped 6% in households and 10% among women 25-54. Finally, CTD’s omg! Insider, which was revamped in January, lost 18% for the season to a 1.4, and 20% in the women 25-54 demo.

Game shows were mixed and included syndication’s other huge Steve Harvey-related success story this season: Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud. The Harvey-hosted show, upgraded into access time slots in many markets, improved 57% this year over last, jumping to a 4.7 season-to-date household rating from last year’s 3.0. Family Feud also improved 50% among women 25-54 to a 2.4, beating CTD’s Jeopardy! for second place in the demo.

Jeopardy! also gained 7% for the season to a 6.2 and 10% to a 2.3 among women 25-54. CTD’s game leader, Wheel of Fortune, dipped 1% to a 6.9 in households and declined 4% among women 25-54. Disney/ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which this fall will replace host Meredith Vieira with Cedric the Entertainer, fell 4% to a 2.4.

CTD’s Judge Judy was the queen of both court shows and syndication as a whole, tying with Wheel for the lead in first-run syndication at a 6.9 household rating, down 1% for the season but up 6% among women 25-54.

The picture was not so rosy for the rest of the court genre, with CTD’s departing Judge Joe Brown down 18% for the year to a 2.3. Warner Bros.’ People’s Court was down 14% to a 1.8, while Judge Mathis fell 6% to a 1.5. Twentieth’s pair of court shows, Divorce Court and Judge Alex, were down 13% and 19%, respectively, to tie at a 1.3.

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