Syndication Ratings: Courts Almost All Rise in February

Court shows nearly made it a clean sweep in the February 2016 sweeps, which ran Feb. 4 through March 2, with all shows in the genre except Divorce Court showing year to year growth.

CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy — about which Rebel Entertainment on Monday served CBS with a lawsuit claiming it hadn’t been paid on profits — grew 8% from last February to a 7.9 live plus same day national sweep average, according to Nielsen Media Research, and was the highest-rated strip in the sweep for the seventh time in the past nine major sweeps. In addition, the 7.9 average marked the show’s second highest February since 2008.

CTD’s Hot Bench, the second-highest rated court, recorded its best sweep so far, gaining 50% from last February to a 2.7 household sweep average, marking the sweep’s biggest annual gain for any syndicated strip. Last year at this time, Hot Bench still aired on independent stations in top markets, having moved to CBS owned stations at the end of March 2015.

Warner Bros.’ People’s Court added 11% to a 2.0 average. Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis moved up 7% to a 1.6. Twentieth’s Divorce Court, recently renewed for multiple seasons, was the only show to drop, falling 19% to a 1.3. Trifecta’s Judge Faith rose 13% to a 0.9.

The race at the top of the games was close, with Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud finishing 4% higher than last February at a 7.1, tying CTD’s usual leader Wheel of Fortune, which fell 7%. CTD’s Jeopardy! eroded 9% to a 6.7. Debmar-Mercury’s Celebrity Name Game strengthened 7% to a 1.5, while Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire deteriorated 26% to a 1.4. 

CTD’s Rachael Ray was the only one of 13 veteran talk shows to outperform last February, improving 7% to a 1.6 average. 

CTD’s top talker Dr. Phil, which has won every major sweep since February 2012, again led the talkers despite dipping 3% to a 3.5. That rating equalled Phil’s second-best February book in eight years. Phil also finished first in talk among women 25-54, with a 1.7 average.

Disney-ABC’s Live with Kelly and Michael slipped 6% from last February to a 3.1 in households, although that matched the program’s second-best February since 2007. Live also saw a boost from its post-Oscars episode on Feb. 29, which scored a 3.5. Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres sagged 7% to a 2.8, although the show tied Live in the demo for second place at a 1.5.

NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey relinquished 10% to a 1.9. NBCU’s Maury was off 14% to a 1.8. Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams weakened 11% to a 1.7. Following Rachael Ray, NBCU’s Steve Wilkos and Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz both were steady at a 1.5. NBCU’s Jerry Springer yielded 7% to a 1.3. CTD’s The Doctors dipped 8% to a 1.1, tying Warner Bros.’ The Real, which retreated 15% to a 1.1 while NBCU’s Meredith Vieira, in its final February, tumbled 25% to a 0.9.

Warner Bros.’ freshman strip Crime Watch Daily grew 25% from its September premiere to a 1.0 household sweep average to lead the rookies.

Disney-ABC’s FABLife, which will end its run after this season, was unchanged from its debut at a 0.8. NBCU’s Crazy Talk, which is going out of production this month, sank 17% from its opener to a 0.5.

The top seven magazines all were lower year to year, with Warner Bros.’ TMZ and Twentieth’s Dish Nation each tumbling 18% to a 1.8 and a 0.9, respectively. 

CTD’s leader Entertainment Tonight eased 10% to a 3.5 but won its 101st consecutive sweep, dating back more than 25 years to July 1990. CTD’s Inside Edition faded 9% to a 3.1. NBCUniversal’s Access Hollywood receded 15% to a 1.7. Warner Bros.’ Extra gave back 12% to a 1.5. CTD’s The Insider slipped 7% to a 1.3. Trifecta’s OK! TV was flat at a 0.3.

Meanwhile, MGM’s RightThisMinute softened 25% to a 1.2. 

Warner Bros.’ The Big Bang Theory cooled off 5% in its fifth season to a 6.1, but remained far in front among the off-net sitcoms. Twentieth’s Modern Family fell 11% in year three to a 3.4. Warner Bros’ Two and a Half Men moved down 13% in year nine to a 2.8. Warner Bros.' rookie 2 Broke Girls averaged a 2.2. in its first February sweep. Twentieth’s Family Guy faltered 16% in season nine to a 2.1, tying Warner Bros.’ sophomore Mike & Molly, which slid 16% to a 2.1. SPT’s Seinfeld, in its 21st festival, sank 14% to a 1.9. Twentieth's How I Met Your Mother drooped 26% in year six to a 1.7, tying Twentieth’s The Cleveland Show, which erased 11% in its third season. Twentieth’s King of the Hill plunged 24% to a 1.3 in its 15th year in syndication. 

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.