Syndication Ratings: 'Judge Judy' Again Reigns as Queen of Sweeps

CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy, starring Judge Judy Sheindlin, again reigned over February sweeps, emerging as the most-watched and highest-rated show during the February sweeps that ran Jan. 31 through Feb. 27.

The win marked Judy’s 11th sweeps win out of the past 12 major sweeps periods with a 7.8 live plus same day household average, according to Nielsen Media Research. Judy managed to prevail — and even increase its margin of victory to the largest in its 23 years on the air — even though the show remained even with last year. That 7.8 also matches the show’s third-highest February sweep household rating of the past decade.

In February 2018, NBC aired the 2018 Winter Olympics from PyeongChang, S. Korea, and that steep competition caused most syndicated shows to retitle themselves, thus taking those episodes out of shows’ overall ratings average for the season.

Many shows, including Judy, also took a hit on the sweep’s final day, Wednesday, Feb. 27, when most TV viewers’ eyes were glued to the testimony of Trump attorney Michael Cohen before the House Oversight Committee.

Still, holding steady compared to last year was an accomplishment because nothing in first-run that averaged at or above a 0.5 household rating improved compared to last year. The Olympics boosted a few shows but hurt many others over the course of the month.

CTD’s Hot Bench was the only other courtroom besides Judy to avoid sweep-to-sweep declines, holding steady for the year at a 2.5 household average and ranking as the sweep’s third-highest strip in daytime behind only Judy and CTD’s top talker Dr. Phil.

The rest of the courts were all down year to year. Warner Bros.’ People’s Court fell back 12% to a 1.5 sweep average, while Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis missed 8% to a 1.1. Twentieth’s Divorce Court tumbled 30% to a 0.7.

Dr. Phil gave back 14% from last year to a 3.2 household sweep average but still easily finished first among talkers for the eighth straight February and the 22nd consecutive major sweep. In addition, Phil led among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54 at a 1.4.

The race for second place in talk was tight with Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres declining 15% to a 2.3 to tie Disney’s Live with Kelly and Ryan, which eased 4%. Last year, Live was 0.3 behind Ellen in the February sweep, although Ellen, which airs on NBC owned stations in big markets, was likely boosted by the Olympics.

Rounding out the top five were NBCU’s Maury and Steve, both of which held steady at a 1.5 and 1.4, respectively. Steve, starring Steve Harvey, also was the only talker in the top seven to hold all of its women 25-54 rating from last year with a steady 0.6.

CTD’s Rachael Ray retreated 8% to a 1.2 to tie both NBCU’s Steve Wilkos and Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams, both of which were unchanged sweep to sweep. Wendy had been trending upward but the show went into reruns in the final three days of the February sweep, with host Williams still out on sick leave.

Related: Wendy Williams Returns to Daytime Talker

Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz fell back 8% to a 1.1. Warner Bros.’ The Real receded 13% to a 0.7. SPT’s The Doctors decayed 25% to a 0.6. Disney’s Pickler & Ben gained 33% from a 0.3 to a 0.4, tying the syndicated run of NBCU’s out-of-production Jerry Springer, which slumped 67% to a 0.4.

Among the newcomers, CTD’s panel talker Face the Truth and Debmar-Mercury’s already renewed rookie court show Caught in Providence averaged a 0.9 and a 0.6, respectively in each of their first February sweeps.

In access, the games ended in a three-way tie. Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud faded 3% to a 6.7. Also at a 6.7 were CTD’s Jeopardy!, which slipped 1%, and CTD’s Wheel of Fortune, which was flat.

Related: 'Jeopardy!' Host Alex Trebek Announces Cancer Diagnosis

Disney’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire depreciated 6% to a 1.7, while Entertainment Studios’ Funny You Should Ask was stable at a 0.5.

Elsewhere, Disney’s RightThisMinute moved down 13% to a 1.3.

CTD’s Entertainment Tonight and inside Edition tied to lead the magazines with ET unchanged from last year and Inside Edition down 3% to a 3.2.

NBCU’s Access and Warner Bros.’ TMZ tied for third with both shows steady at a 1.4.

Warner Bros’ Extra and CTD’s DailyMailTV also tied at a 1.1, with Extra, which airs on large-market NBC stations through the end of this season, falling back 15% from its Olympic-boosted prior year and Mail remaining on par with its rookie season.

Twentieth’s Page Six TV stayed at a 0.7, while Trifecta’s Celebrity Page picked up 50% year to year to a 0.3 from a 0.2.

NBCU’s off-net sophomore strip Dateline led the true-crime posse with a steady 1.4. SPT’s off A&E’s Live PD Police Patrol, which airs on both broadcast and cable, averaged a 1.1, up 10% from its September debut. Off-Investigation Discovery’s True Crime Files, which airs on broadcast only, was flat compared to its fall premiere at a 0.3.

Meanwhile, NBCU’s scripted Chicago PD captured a 1.0 in its first February sweep, improving 25% from its September debut.

Related: Crime Keeps Paying Off in Syndication 

Warner Bros.’ The Big Bang Theory, which is heading into its final few episodes on CBS primetime, led the off-net sitcoms with a 4.9 household sweep average in its eighth year, down 4% compared to last February. Twentieth’s Last Man Standing, which returned to Fox in primetime this season after having been canceled by ABC, leaped 26% to a 2.4 in its third season. Twentieth’s Modern Family fell 20% to a 2.0 in year six. 

Related: 'Big Bang Theory' Sets Series Finale for May 16

SPT’s sophomore TheGoldbergs stumbled 17% to a 1.5. Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men shed 6% to a 1.5 in its 12th stanza. Twentieth’s Family Guy, also in its 12th season, softened 7% to a 1.4. Disney’s freshman Black-ish clocked a 1.2. Warner Bros.’ Mike & Molly deteriorated 27% to a 1.1 in year five. Warner Bros.’ 2 Broke Girls sank 17% to a 1.0 in its fourth season, tying SPT’s Seinfeld, which shrank 9% but still made the top 10 list in its 24th season.

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.