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Summer Series Searches Yield Mixed Results

Several syndicators and stations have used the summer, when many series are in repeats and pre-fall competition for viewers is slim, to launch new shows or run tests—and the results are mixed.

This summer has seen one national syndication launch—Debmar-Mercury's Wendy Williams—and two tests—Warner Bros.' clip show Beyond Twisted and Twentieth Television's Divorce Court spinoff Wedlock or Deadlock, both of which ran or are running on select Fox TV stations. Fox and Warner Bros. pulled Beyond Twisted after three weeks of an expected eight-week test. That show, which premiered to dismal ratings, isn't expected to return. Wedlock or Deadlock, however, is surprising Fox and Twentieth enough in its seven-market run that the companies are considering an extension of the test elsewhere.

After two weeks on the air, Wendy Williams' ratings tell a mixed story. The show is a bona-fide hit in New York, its hometown. In its first two weeks on the air, Williams was the top-rated daytime show among women 18-34 in New York, scoring a 2.1 rating/16 share in that demographic, a 433% increase over its May 10 a.m. time period average on Fox-owned WNYW. Among women 18-49 and 25-54, it's the second-highest-rated show in the market between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., losing only to ABC's General Hospital, according to Debmar-Mercury. Williams has improved that time period 267% since May among women 18-49.

Williams is also turning in strong performances in three other markets: WTXF Philadelphia at 10 a.m., WTTG Washington, D.C., at noon, and KTTV Los Angeles at 4 p.m.

Still, the show's national ratings need to improve by at least a few tenths for Debmar-Mercury's investment to pay off. With 72% of the country cleared—another 30 stations will join the lineup this fall—the show averaged a 1.0 live-plus-same-day household rating in its first week of national ratings, according to Nielsen. Williams scored a 0.7 in each of the female demographics.

"We have several really good stories in big markets," says Mort Marcus, co-president of Debmar-Mercury.  "If you can succeed in those markets, over time the other markets should figure it out. Over time, as more people watch her, the more we think they will like her."

Meanwhile, Fox and Twentieth are pleased with Wedlock or Deadlock. The show is averaging a 1.2/4 across seven markets. That's not a hit—over all, the show is down 33% from last July's time period average and down 29% from its lead-in—but its performance is respectable in several markets, particularly KSAZ Phoenix, WTVT Tampa and WHBQ Memphis. In Memphis, it's averaging a 2.6/6, the highest of the seven markets.

“The program that Twentieth has produced is economically reasonable, watchable and well worth considering,” says Frank Cicha, SVP of programming for the Fox TV stations. “There's something to this subject matter that resonates among younger women.”

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