Syndication Ratings: At May Sweeps' Close, 'Phil' Tops Talk

Talk, court and game fared well in the May sweep, which ran from April 24 through May 21, while the going was a little rougher for magazines and very rough for off-net sitcoms.

CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil confirmed itself as Oprah’s heir, winning its eighth sweep in a row. CTD’s Oprah went off the air in May 2011, easily winning that sweep. Disney-ABC's Live With Regis and Kelly, celebrating Regis Philbin’s farewell, won the November 2011 sweep, but ever since then has been Phil’s. Phil averaged a 3.4 live plus same day household rating for the sweep, according to Nielsen Media Research, up 13% from May 2013. Dr. Phil also led among women 25-54, with a 1.9 average among women 25-54, holding steady with last May.

In second place, Disney-ABC's Live With Kelly and Michael scored its strongest May sweep since 2007 and surged 12% from last May to a 2.8. In third place, Warner Bros.’ Ellen averaged a 2.7, up 8%. Live switched ranks with Ellen, who took second in the February sweep. NBCU’s Maury and SPT’s Dr. Oz were next, with both shows scoring a 2.0. Maury was even with last May, while Dr. Oz dipped 9%.

NBCU’s Steve Harvey showed the largest year-to-year improvement of the talkers, jumping 20% from last May to a 1.8.

NBCU’s Steve Wilkos rose 8% to a 1.4 and climbed 11% among women 25-54 to a 1.0. Also at a 1.4 were Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams, which leaped 17% from last May in households, and Disney-ABC’s cancelled Katie, which tumbled 18%, the largest year-to-year decline of any talker.

CTD’s Rachael Ray receded 7% to a 1.3. NBCU’s Jerry Springer and CTD’s The Doctors both slipped 8% to a 1.2 and 1.1, respectively. NBCU’s Trisha, which is near the end of its run, sank 17% to a 0.5. Meredith’s The Better Show was unchanged at a 0.2.

Among the rookies, SPT’s Queen Latifah posted a 1.2 average for the sweep, on par with February and the show’s September debut. Latifah also climbed 14% from February among women 25-54 to a 0.8, and improved 20% among women 18-49 to a 0.6. In addition, Queen Latifah ended the sweep on a high note, notching a 1.3 for the week ending May 25, the show’s highest rating in four months. The show also promoted Todd Yasui to executive producer, while original EP Corin Nelson is departing.

Warner Bros.’ Bethenny and CTD’s The Test, both of which will depart after this season, were down 22% and 14%, respectively, from February to a 0.7 and a 0.6.

In late night, CTD’s Arsenio Hall, which has ceased production after its earlier renewal was reversed, fell 14% from February to a 0.6.

CTD’s Judge Judy turned in a 7.3, the show’s best May sweep performance in six years. Judy’s rating, up 9% over last May, is greater than that of all the other court shows combined and up 9% over last May. Judy was the number-one show in overall syndication for the fourth sweep in a row.

Warner Bros.’ People’s Court picked up 12% from last May to a 1.9. Twentieth’s Divorce Court was up 17% to a 1.4, tying Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis and Twentieth’s already canceled Judge Alex, both of which were flat May to May. MGM’s freshman Paternity Court trailed at a 1.1, unchanged from February.

In access, games showed solid gains, featuring the closest finish of any category. CTD’s Wheel of Fortune climbed 6% from last May to a 6.7, managing to beat CTD’s Jeopardy! by two-tenths of a point. Jeopardy! gained 12% to a 6.5, largely on the strength of its Battle of the Decades tournament and the just ended 20-game winning streak of contestant Julia Collins.

Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud improved 13% from last year to a 5.1 in households, topping the game charts among women 25-54 with a 2.6 and among women 18-49 with a 2.1.

Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire was the only loser in the group, dropping 13% from last May to a 2.1. Next season, Terry Crews will replace Cedric the Entertainer in the host seat, after Cedric this season replaced Meredith Vieira.

Magazines were off slightly from last May. CTD’s leader Entertainment Tonight won its 95th consecutive sweep, a winning streak that dates back 24 years, despite dipping 6% from last May to a 3.3 average. CTD’s Inside Edition edged ahead 3% to a 3.0. Warner Bros.’ TMZ was flat at a 1.9. NBCU’s Access Hollywood eased 6% to a 1.6. Warner Bros.’ Extra gained the most since last May of any magazine, growing 7% from May 2013 to a 1.5. CTD’s The Insider was off 7% to a 1.3.

Further back, MGM’s RightThis Minute, which was nationally rated for the first time in this, its third season, clocked a 1.1, slowing down 8% from February. Twentieth’s Dish Nation was unchanged from last May at a 1.0. Trifecta’s America Now, wrapping its run, lost 25% from February to a 0.3, tying Trifecta’s newcomer OK! TV, which climbed 50% from its 0.2 in February.

The off-net sitcoms declined steeply. Warner Bros.’ The Big Bang Theory led the field, with a 6.0 in its third season in syndication, down 6% from last May. Twentieth’s rookie Modern Family closed its first season at a 4.1, down 16% from February. Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men, in season seven in syndication, eroded 27% from last May to a 3.3. Twentieth’s Family Guy, also in year seven, sagged 21% to a 2.7. SPT’s Seinfeld in its 19th season had shrinkage of 14% to a 1.8, tying Twentieth’s rookie, The Cleveland Show, which was down 5% from February. Warner Bros.’ Friends faded 15% in year 16 to a 1.7, tying Twentieth’s How I Met Your Mother, which in its fourth season plunged 26%. Warner Bros.' rookie The Middle was up 7% from February to a 1.6, while Twentieth’s King of the Hill erased 32% of its rating to a 1.5 in its 13th 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.