Syndication Ratings: Series and Season Highs the Norm With East Coast in Deep Freeze

In a week jam-packed with series and season highs, CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy had its best week in 14 years, crossing the rare 8.0 household ratings threshold in the week ended Jan. 12. That was the case for several syndies while the East Coast was encased in bitter cold, even though some shows were preempted on Jan. 9 in N.Y. for coverage of New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s two-hour press conference on the George Washington bridge scandal.

Judge Judy, which is the season-to-date syndication leader in its 18th year on the air, climbed 11% for the week to hit an 8.0 live plus same day household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research, tying CTD’s access game show Wheel of Fortune for top syndie honors and growing 10% from last year at this time. This marks the 39th consecutive week that Judy has taken first place in first run, including ties, and the 903rd straight week that the show has led the courtroom genre.

Far back, Warner Bros.’ People’s Court was the number-two gaveler, adding 5% from the prior week to a new season-high 2.0. Twentieth’s Divorce Court sank 11% to a 1.7, falling into a three-way tie with Twentieth’s soon-to-depart Judge Alex, which improved 6%, and Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis, which fell 6%. Trailing the field was MGM’s rookie Paternity Court, which faded 9% to a 1.0.

Elsewhere in daytime, CTD’s talk leader Dr. Phil, which had been in repeats for the prior two weeks, returned to original programming and surged 26% to a 3.4, tying Disney/ABC's Live with Kelly and Michael for the week’s top talk spot. Live held steady at its season high, jumping 31% from last year at this time, the biggest year-to-year improvement of any talk show.

Warner Bros.’ Ellen, which had been at its season low while in repeats, perked up 29% with fresh programming to a third place 3.1.

Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz, which often gets a boost after the New Year from people making health-related New Year’s resolutions, soared 44% from its last rating two weeks ago to a new season-high 2.6. Oz also ballooned 50% among women 25-54 to a new season-high 1.5 among daytime’s key demographic. Oz’s number had been withheld by Nielsen in the prior week due to an undercount by the ratings service.

NBCUniversal’s Maury grew 5% from the previous frame to a 2.2. Host Maury Povich, who turned 75 last week, led the show to top the list among women 18-34 at a 1.2.

NBCU’s Steve Harvey had its best week ever, breaking the 2.0 level for the first time with a 5% advance. Year to year, Harvey is up 25%. Disney/ABC’s Katie also notched a new season high, tying Harvey with an 11% gain to a 2.0, the show’s third-largest rating in its history.

CTD’s Rachael Ray remained at its season-high 1.7 and grew 13% from last year at this time. Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams, back in originals, added 25% to a 1.5. NBCU’s Steve Wilkos was steady at its season-high 1.4, tying NBCU’s Jerry Springer which added 8% to a new season-high 1.4 and CTD’s The Doctors, which also climbed 8% to a new season-high 1.4. NBCU’s Trisha stayed at its season-high 0.6, while Meredith’s The Better Show remained at a 0.2.

SPT’s recently renewed Queen Latifah leaped 10% to a 1.1, leading the rookies in households. Warner Bros.’ Bethenny held steady at a 0.9 and was the top rookie talker among women 25-54 at a 0.7. CTD’s The Test was flat at a 0.7, while in late-night CTD’s Arsenio Hall spiked 17% to return to a 0.7.

In the metered markets, after two full weeks, CTD’s test of Serch averaged a 0.9 rating/3 share in households, down 10% from its year-ago time period performance 1.0/3 and down 18% from its 1.1/3 lead in. Among women 25-54, Serch dropped 17% from its 0.6/3 time period average and 29% from its 0.7/4 average lead-in to a 0.5/3. Serch is being tested in eight Tribune markets, and its test was cut from four to three weeks after producers decided not to air the first week of episodes.

Some highlights of the Serch test include gains over year-ago time periods of 30% in Philadelphia and 167% in San Diego, where Serch was the second-rated show at 2 p.m., ahead of Steve Harvey and Rachael Ray. Among women 25-54, the show upped the time period performance of KTLA Los Angeles by 100% over what Maury was doing in that time period last January.

Back in the national ratings, syndication’s top magazines continued to generate plenty of ratings steam. Every one of the ten magazines was up from the prior week, with the exception of Twentieth’s Dish Nation.

CTD’s leader Entertainment Tonight rose 14% from the prior week to a new season-high 4.0. CTD’s Inside Edition picked up 10% to a 3.2. NBCU’s Access Hollywood jumped 19% to a 1.9, the biggest week-to-week improvement of any top-tier magazine and landed in a tie for third place with Warner Bros.’ TMZ, which gained 12%. Warner Bros.’ Extra rallied 6% to a new season-high 1.8, its best performance since the week of Oct. 31, 2011. Extra also grew 13% for the year, the most of any magazine. CTD’s The Insider, which returned to its original title, gained 15% to a 1.5.

Among the newer magazines, MGM’s RightThisMinute climbed 8% to a new season-high 1.3. Twentieth’s sophomore Dish Nation was flat at a 0.9. Trifecta’s America Now rose 33%—or one-tenth of a ratings point—to a 0.4 from a 0.3. Trifecta’s recently renewed rookie OK! TV, after 17 consecutive weeks at a 0.2, moved up 50% to a new season-high 0.3.

Game shows were active, with Wheel of Fortune, CTD’s Jeopardy!, Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud and Disney/ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire all posting new season highs.

Wheel accelerated 18% from the prior week to hit an 8.0, tying Judge Judy at the top of the syndication leader board. Jeopardy! also climbed 18%, finishing at a 7.3. Feud jumped 5% to a 5.8, that show’s best rating since the advent of Nielsen People Meters in 1988. Millionaire appreciated 4% to a 2.4, that show’s strongest performance since the week of Nov. 12, 2012.

Among the veteran off-net sitcoms, Warner Bros.’ The Big Bang Theory heated up 5% from the prior week to a new season-high 6.6. Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men moved up 17% to a new season-high 4.1. Twentieth’s Family Guy hit a new season-high 3.5, up 13% from the previous week. Twentieth’s How I Met Your Mother moved 4% lower to a 2.2. SPT’s Seinfeld spiked 6% to a 1.9, tying Warner Bros.’ Friends, which finished 6% higher. Twentieth’s King of the Hill fell 11% to a 1.7.

Among the rookie sitcoms, Twentieth’s Modern Family continued to lead, inching up 2% from the prior week to a 4.9, and ranking second overall among the sitcoms. Twentieth’s The Cleveland Show dropped 5% to a 2.0. Warner Bros.’ The Middle climbed 7% to a new season-high 1.6, while SPT’s Community, which resumed its network run this month on NBC, held steady for a second week at its series-high 0.5.

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.