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Syndication Ratings: March Madness Mauls Syndies

March Madness continued to be tough on syndies in the week ending March 30.

Week two of the popular annual NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament forced time-period shuffling and pre-emptions for shows airing on CBS stations. In addition, spring came on strong across the country, with warmer weather and longer days translating into an average decline of 900,000 TV viewers.

CBS’ Entertainment Tonight, arguably the hardest-hit, was moved to middle-of-the-night time slots or pre-empted completely in 18 of the top 20 markets March 27 and 28, falling 11% to a 3.9 live-plus-same-day household rating. Still, the show remained in first place among the access magazines.

None of the other magazines saw gains on the week, either. CBS’ Inside Edition dropped 9% to a 3.0. NBC Universal’s Access Hollywood and Warner Bros.’ rookie, TMZ, each fell 4% to a 2.2. CBS’ The Insider -- which, like ET,was massively pre-empted for basketball -- was flat at a 2.0. Warner Bros.’ Extra held steady at a 1.8.

CBS’ popular game shows -- Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! -- did not face similar falling fates, although Wheel was pre-empted so frequently that Nielsen Media Research didn’t count March 27 and 28 in the show’s rating average. Wheel dipped only 1% to a 7.9, while Jeopardy!, which Nielsen did not break out, jumped 2% to a 6.0. (Both Wheel and Jeopardy! air largely on ABC-owned stations and affiliates in top markets.)

Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire fell 4% to a 2.7, matching its season low. Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud was flat at a 1.9 but up 6% from the same week last year.

Among the rookie games, Program Partners’ Merv Griffin’s Crosswords was up 13% to a 0.9. Twentieth Television’s Temptation was unchanged at a 0.5.

Nine out of 11 court shows dropped to or maintained their season lows for the week. The exceptions were CBS’ Judge Judy, up 9% to a 4.7, and Radar Entertainment’s Jury Duty, unchanged at a meager 0.3. Judy also improved 4% over last year at this time, the only court show to improve year to year.

Otherwise, CBS’ Judge Joe Brown, in repeats, fell 8% to a season low 2.4. Warner Bros.’ People’s Court, Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis and Twentieth’s Divorce Court all were unchanged at their season lows of 2.3, 2.0 and 1.7, respectively. Twentieth’s Judge Alex dropped 6% to a 1.6, tying its low. Sony’s Judy Hatchett lost 8% to a 1.2, while Twentieth’s Cristina’s Court fell 8% to a 1.1, each also matching their lows. And Sony’s Judge Maria Lopez and rookie Judge David Young each were unchanged at a season-low 0.8.

The talk shows were more mixed. CBS’ top talker, Oprah, was up 4% to a 4.9. CBS’ Dr. Phil gained 5% to a 4.1 after jumping 23% to a 4.8 for a March 25 show on women who admitted that they can’t cope with their children.

In third place, Disney-ABC’s Live with Regis and Kelly remained unchanged at its season low 2.6. Warner Bros.’ Ellen DeGeneres dropped 13% to a 2.0, in a three-way tie for fourth with CBS’ Rachael Ray and NBCU’s Maury. Rachael was up 5% for the week and for the year, making it the only talk show to improve over last year and the third of three first-run syndicated shows boasting year-to-year gains. Maury also notched a 5% rise for the week.

CBS’ Montel Williams climbed 15% to a 1.5. NBCU’s Jerry Springer fell 8% to a 1.2. Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks and Martha Stewart were unchanged at a 1.1 and 1.0, respectively.

Twentieth’s rookie, The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet, jumped 10% to a 1.1, tying Tyra and leading the six daytime newcomers. NBCU’s Steve Wilkos was unchanged at a 0.9.

Most of the top off-net sitcoms were flat to slightly up. Warner Bros.’ top-rated rookie, Two and a Half Men, remained unchanged at a 5.2. Twentieth’s Family Guy climbed 2% to a 4.6. Sony’s Seinfeld was steady at a 4.1. CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond gained 6% to a 3.8. Warner Bros.’ George Lopez was unchanged at a 3.4, tying its series high. King of Queens gained 3% to a 3.0, while Warner Bros.’ Friends was flat at a 2.8.