Syndication Ratings: Change in Ratings Calculus Sends 'Judge Judy' to Top of Syndie Charts

Nielsen introduced a major change in the way it calculates syndicated AA ratings in the week ending April 3. AA -- or average audience ratings -- will now include viewing of multiple runs of the same show, which previously had only been included in the GAA or gross average audience ratings.

The change was made to prepare for the inclusion of online viewing, but most syndicators probably welcome it since they sell advertising based on GAA ratings. Media outlets, such as B&C, had stuck with the AA ratings when reporting show performances because evaluating shows based on single-viewing numbers was viewed as a fairer way to compare shows when some had strong double-runs and others did not.

Under the new rules, CBS Television Distribution's Judge Judy has gone from the top-rated strip in daytime to the top-rated show in first-run syndication, tying CTD's usual game-show leader, Wheel of Fortune.

In the week ending April 3, Judy jumped 63% to a new season high 7.0 in a week that saw a double-digit increase for every court show due to the change. Judy's gain was the largest week-to-week increase of any syndicated strip. Judge Judy is double-run in most markets, and the stronger the viewership for a show's second run, the stronger the rating in this new calculus.

The second-place court show, CTD's Judge Joe Brown improved 42% from the prior week to a 2.7. Warner Bros.' People's Court rose 11% to a 2.0. Twentieth's Judge Alex added 31% to a new season high 1.7. Warner Bros.' Judge Mathis rebounded 14% from the previous week's season low to a 1.6. Twentieth's Divorce Court picked up 33% to a new season high 1.6, tying Mathis. Warner Bros.' Judge Jeanine Pirro continued to trail the field at a 1.0, but was up 11%.

CTD's soon-to-conclude Oprah remained at its season-low 3.4 for its third consecutive week, and posted the only year-to-year decline of any syndicated show, dropping 15% from the same week last year.

In second place, CTD's Dr. Phil improved 13% from the prior week to a 2.7. Disney-ABC's Live with Regis and Kelly added 4% to a 2.6. Sony's Dr. Oz was flat at a 2.3. Warner Bros.' Ellen fell 5% to a 2.1, tying NBCUniversal's Maury, which added 5%. CTD's The Doctors held steady at a 1.7. Rachael Ray rallied 7% to a 1.6. NBCU's Jerry Springer saw a 15% increase to a 1.5, while Steve Wilkos gained 17% to a 1.4. Debmar-Mercury's Wendy Williams, although voted off of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, improved 8% to a new season high 1.3.

Sticking with daytime, the new ratings system was kind to CTD's rookie first-run show, Swift Justice with Nancy Grace, which airs in one-hour afternoon blocks of two half-hour episodes each. The show soared 50% from the previous week to a new series high 1.8.

Meanwhile, Sony's Nate Berkus remained at a 1.0, tying Twentieth's Don't Forget the Lyrics, which leaped 43%. Litton's Judge Karen's Court gained 29% to a new series high 1.9. Entertainment Studios' America's Court with Judge Ross was flat at a 0.3.

Among game shows, CTD's Wheel of Fortune improved 8% for the week to a 7.0. CTD's Jeopardy! edged up 3% to a 6.0. Disney-ABC's Who Wants to be a Millionaire advanced 9% to a 2.5, tying Debmar-Mercury's Family Feud, which improved its standing by 47% to a new season high. Twentieth's Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, which will end its run after this season, gained 25% to a 1.0.

Elsewhere in access, magazines fell back to earth a bit without any big breaking stories to drive ratings. CTD's Entertainment Tonight gave back 10% to a 3.8. CTD's Inside Edition was flat at a 2.9. Warner Bros.' TMZ grew 5% to a 2.2. NBCU's Access Hollywood retreated 13% to a 2.0. Warner Bros.' Extra was off 11% to a 1.7. CTD's The Insider, which was preempted in numerous markets due to President Obama's March 28 speech on Libya, fell 11% to a 1.6. Most of the other magazines had that Monday broken out of its ratings average, which Nielsen does if a show loses 10% of its coverage on any given day.

The off-net sitcoms, all of which have multiple runs, almost all increased by double-digit percentages and hit new season highs due to Nielsen's change.

Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men jumped 37% to a new season high 7.4. Twentieth's Family Guy advanced 27% to a new season high 4.7. Disney-ABC's My Wife and Kids saw its ratings swell 36% to a new season high 3.4. CTD's Everybody Loves Raymond rallied 28% to a new season high 3.2. Warner Bros.' George Lopez leaped 50% to a new season high 3.0. Sony's Seinfeld added 12% to a 2.8, tying NBCU's The Office, which got a 22% raise. Twentieth's King of the Hill was up 10% to a 2.3. And Warner Bros.' Friends gained 17% to a new season high 2.1.

Among the new off-net and off-cable strips, Twentieth's How I Met Your Mother ballooned 32% to a new season high 2.9. Warner Bros.' The New Adventures of Old Christine ratcheted up 23% to a new season high 1.6. Debmar-Mercury's Meet the Browns soared 56% to a 1.4. Warner Bros.' pair of off-HBO sitcoms, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm, each were flat at a 0.7. And NBCU's off-Bravo Real Housewives improved 20% to a 0.6.

Paige Albiniak

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.