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Several syndies performed Well in tough season

In an era of fractionalization, most syndicated shows have trouble gathering an audience worth mentioning, much less growing. But a few shows have strong stories to tell, which comes as a relief headed into this year's National Association of Television Program Executives conference in Las Vegas.

Warner Bros.' Ellen DeGeneres is perhaps the sunniest of syndies, from both a content and a ratings perspective. Now in its sixth season, DeGeneres keeps the show upbeat with her light-hearted opening monologue, dancing and high-profile guests.

Audiences' appreciation of DeGeneres' efforts is proved in the show's ratings, which were up by 14% to a 2.4 live-plus-same-day average household rating in this year's November sweeps versus last year, according to Nielsen. Ellen, which began broadcasting in high-definition this season, is syndication's only talker to be up year-to-year, averaging a 2.0 season-to-date household average, a 10% year-to-year increase. Every other talk show is either down or flat year-to-year.

Ellen's sixth-season premiere, featuring Michelle Obama and the Jonas Brothers, was the show's best in four years. Its highest-rated episode of the season came on Dec. 15, when the show hit a 2.8 rating/7 share in the overnight markets with guests Sean Combs and DogTown rescuer John Garcia.

Although CBS Television Distribution's Oprah Winfrey Show is down by 11% year-to-year, the show remains a powerhouse, beating its nearest competitor—CTD's Dr. Phil—by 56% on average. Oprah notched 500 weeks in a row as syndication's top talker in November.

The show's top-rated episode this year was its post-presidential election special, which hit a 6.9 household weighted metered market average on Nov. 5. That show also was Oprah's highest rated among women 18-49, hitting a 3.7.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, leaving Winfrey after this season to launch his own Harpo-produced show, often figures in Oprah's highest-rated episodes. Among households, shows featuring Oz were the second- , fourth- and fifth-highest-rated episodes of the season. Among women 18-49, Oz can boast the second- and fourth-highest-rated shows.

Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men is having an even better sophomore year. In the November sweeps, Two and a Half Men averaged a 5.2 live-plus-same-day household rating, a 13% increase over last year. Season-to-date, Two and a Half Men is up by 23% to a 4.9 household rating.

The only other off-net to improve year-to-year is Warner Bros.' George Lopez, which gained 7% during sweeps to a 2.9.

CTD's Judge Judy is another veteran standout, boasting the smallest year-to-year decline among all the court shows, just 8%. In its 12th season, Judy averaged a 4.5 in the November sweeps, a 96% ratings advantage over CTD's Judge Joe Brown.

Finally, two rookie syndies showed strong gains in November, with NBC Universal's Deal or No Deal improving by 13% from its September debut to a 1.8. CTD's The Doctors increased from its premiere by an impressive 31% to a 1.7. The Doctors also is the first newcomer to be picked up for season two.—P.A.