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Syndication Ratings: Britney's Travails Are Mags' Triumphs

In an otherwise sleepy New Year’s week, the tribulations of pop princess Britney Spears drove all of the syndicated entertainment magazines up by double-digits.

In the week ending Jan. 6, CBS’ Entertainment Tonight had the largest increase of any strip in first run, gaining 26% from the prior week to a 4.4 live-plus-same-day national household average, according to Nielsen Media Research. That includes a 34% ratings jump Friday, Jan. 4, the day news broke that Spears had been hospitalized after a frightening custody stand-off. Fridays are usually the week’s lowest-rated day.

And unlike most shows, ET counted New Year’s Day in its average, although most syndicated shows left that football-heavy day out of their weekly averages.

The constant chronicling of Spears’ problems also drove the other magazines up. CBS’ Inside Edition jumped 15% to a 3.1 four-day average. NBC Universal’s Access Hollywood, dropping both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, gained 14% to a 2.5. CBS’ The Insider and Warner Bros.’ Extra both counted all five days, with Insider increasing 11% to a 2.1 and Extra leaping 20% to a 1.8.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ new access show, TMZ, the top overall rookie, dropped 6% to a 1.7 four-day average.

Almost all other strips used a four-day average for the week.

Only six first-run strips showed year-to-year improvements: CBS’ Judge Judy, the top court show, gained 11%; CBS’ Judge Joe, in second place among the courts, jumped 7%; Twentieth Television’s Cristina’s Court increased 8%; Disney-ABC’s Live with Regis and Kelly improved 7%; Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres gained 5%; and Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud was up 11%.

For the week, Judge Judy averaged a 5.0, up 2%. Besides gaining on the year, Judge Joe Brown hit a new season-high 3.0, up 7%. Warner Bros.’ People’s Court also marked a new season high of 2.6, up 4%. Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis was unchanged at a 2.3. Twentieth’s Divorce Court jumped 5% to a 2.0. Twentieth’s Judge Alex gained 6% to a 1.9. Sony’s Judge Hatchett and Cristina’s Court each were unchanged for the week at a 1.4. Sony’s Judge Maria Lopez dropped 10% to a 0.9.

Among the new courts, Sony’s rookie, Judge David Young, hit a series high 1.1, up 10%, while Radar Entertainment’s Jury Duty was unchanged at a 0.3.

Twentieth’s The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet led the daytime rookies and scored the most growth among all talkers, jumping 20% from the prior week and 50% over the past two months to a new series high 1.2. NBCU’s Steve Wilkos, which is renewed for year two, held steady at a 0.9.

Among the veteran talkers, three were up for the week: CBS’ Montel Williams hit a season-high 1.7, up 13%; Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks jumped 9% to tie its season-high 1.2; and NBCU’s Martha Stewart increased 10% to a 1.1.

Otherwise, the other shows were down or flat. CBS’ top talker, The Oprah Winfrey Show, was unchanged at a 4.7. Oprah -- whose host, Oprah Winfrey, will turn Discovery Health into OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network in 2009 -- also plunged 20% year-to-year, marking the biggest decline of any talker.

In second place, CBS’ Dr. Phil held steady at a 4.0. Disney-ABC’s Live with Regis and Kelly was flat at a 3.1. CBS’ Rachael Ray remained at its season high 2.1. Maury was down 5% to a 2.1 and Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres was even for the week at a 2.0.

Game shows were higher on the week. CBS’ Wheel of Fortune gained 10% to a 7.5. CBS’ Jeopardy! jumped 14% to a 6.4. Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire gained 7% to tie its season-high 3.2. And Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud, having a great week, increased 17% hit a new season high 2.1.

Among the game-show rookies, Program Partners’ Crosswords hit a new series-high 1.0, up 11%. Twentieth’s Temptation improved 20% to a 0.6.

The off-net sitcoms were mostly lower. Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men dropped 2% to a 4.3 but stayed atop the pack. Twentieth’s Family Guy fell 3% to a 3.9. CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond was down 8% to a 3.7. Sony’s Seinfeld tumbled 15% to a 3.3, while Sony’s King of Queens moved up 3% to a 3.1.

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.