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Syndication Ratings: February Flops for Most Syndies

This year's February sweeps weren't so fabulous for most of syndication, with ratings depressed by storms, power outages and coverage of breaking news, especially the manhunt for rogue cop Christopher Dorner who was on the run in Southern California.

Still, it was a good sweep for daytime's top three talkers. CBS Television Distribution's Dr. Phil claimed the title of top talker for the fourth sweep in a row. Phil was the only show to break a 3.0 rating in househollds, holding steady from last February at a 3.4 live plus same day rating, according to Nielsen Media Research, and growing 6% among daytime's key demographic of women 25-54 to lead the pack at a 1.9. Dr. Phil drew nearly 4.5 million viewers per show on average, more than 750,000 viewers above Phil's closest rival.

Although Disney-ABC's Live! with Kelly and Michael and Warner Bros.' Ellen ran neck and neck throughout the entire sweep, Live! prevailed, holding firm at a 2.8, and moving up a rank from last February. Warner Bros.' Ellen climbed to third place from last year's fourth-place tie, gaining 4% to a 2.7.

In fourth place, Sony Pictures Television's Dr. Oz dropped 17% to a 2.5. Last February, Oz came in second behind Dr. Phil.

NBCUniversal's Maury eased 8% to a 2.4, but led the field in both women 18-34 and women 18-49, at a 1.5 and 1.6, respectively.

NBCU's Steve Wilkos broke out, averaging a 1.6, a 14% improvement over last February and the largest year-to-year increase of any talk show. That tied CTD's Rachael Ray, which held steady. NBCU's Jerry Springer also was flat year-to-year at a 1.5.

CTD's The Doctors declined 18% to a 1.4 for the sweep. On Monday, March 11, however, the show climbed 20% in the metered markets to a new one-day season-high 1.8 rating/5 share, with an episode featuring terminally-ill actress, Valerie Harper, who has been diagnosed with brain cancer.

Debmar-Mercury's Wendy Williams picked up 8% to a 1.3. Warner Bros.' Anderson Live, which won't return next season and which was heavily preempted during the sweep, plunged 27% to a 1.1. Debmar-Mercury's Jeremy Kyle, also not coming back next year, declined 14% to a 0.6.

Among the rookie talkers, Disney-ABC's Katie remained the highest-rated freshman talker in its first February sweep, averaging a 1.9 in households, but was down 5% from its 2.0 September premiere. NBCU's Steve Harvey was the rookie standout, however, averaging a 1.6 in households, growing 33% from his 1.2 debut in September. Harvey also jumped 25% among women 25-54 from its first week to a 1.0, tying Katie in that key group.

The two canceled rookie shows -- CTD's Jeff Probst and Twentieth's Ricki Lake -- were up 14% from premiere to a 0.8, and flat at a 0.7, respectively.

NBCU's renewed Trisha spiked 50%, or two-tenths of a ratings point, from where the show started in September to a 0.6.

Elsewhere in daytime, CTD's Judge Judy remained daytime's top show and also was the only court show not to decline, bucking a downtrend in the genre. Judy was steady at a 7.5, more than five full ratings points higher than its nearest courtroom rival and larger than the next four judge shows combined.

In second place, CTD's Judge Joe Brown slipped 17% to a 2.5. Warner Bros.' People's Court also sank 17% to a 1.9, while Judge Mathis softened 12% to a 1.5. Likewise, Twentieth's Judge Alex plunged 26% to a 1.4, tying Divorce Court, which dropped 7%. Entertainment Studios' America's Court tumbled 20% to a 0.8, while its rookie Justice for All faded 20% from its debut week to a 0.4. ES' We the People fell 60% from last year to a barely-there 0.2.

The entertainment magazines all were lower than last February, when coverage of Whitney Houston's sudden death the day before the Grammy Awards grabbed headlines and propelled the magazines all month.

CTD's leader Entertainment Tonight was off 5% from last year to a 4.0. However, ET won its 90th sweep in a row dating back to 1990. In second place, CTD's Inside Edition was steady at a 3.3. Warner Bros.' TMZ receded 5% to a 2.1. NBCU's Access Hollywood gave back 14% to a 1.9. Warner Bros.' Extra yielded 11% to a 1.6. CTD's rebranded omg! Insider averaged a 1.5, on par with its January premiere. Twentieth's newcomer Dish Nation was up 25% to a 1.0 from its September debut.

Debmar-Mercury's Family Feud, hosted by Harvey, had syndication's hottest February. The Nielsen survey said Feud was up 66%, by far syndication's largest jump, to a 5.3 over last February.

The game leader, CTD's Wheel of Fortune, inched up 1% for the year to a 7.6, and second place in overall syndication. CTD's Jeopardy! jumped 8% to a 6.8. Disney-ABC's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire managed a 2.6 final answer for the sweep, down 4% from last year. NBCU's newbie Baggage checked in with a 1.1 for its first February, even with its September premiere.

Among the off-net sitcoms, Warner Bros.' The Big Bang Theory bumped up 4% from last February to a 7.7, leading all of syndication and one of only two of the top sitcoms to show a gain. Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men fell back 14% to a 5.4. Twentieth's Family Guy weakened 18% to a 3.7. Twentieth's How I Met Your Mother moved 13% lower to a 2.8. SPT's Seinfeld slipped 11% to a 2.4. Twentieth's King of the Hill rose 5% to a 2.3. Warner Bros.' Friends fell 5% to a 2.1, while CTD's Everybody Loves Raymond retreated 21% to a 1.9.

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.