Syndication Ratings: Syndies Hold Up in Sweeps, Even with Sochi Steamroller Behind Them

Even facing preemptions and strong competition from NBC’s coverage of Sochi Winter Olympics, syndication mostly held up in the 2014 February sweep, which ran Jan. 30 through Feb. 26.

Some shows chose to exclude their ratings from their sweep averages during the games, which meant they factored out half of the sweep. The sweep’s worst performers were the top-tier veteran off-net sitcoms, all of which fell by double-digits compared to last February.

The sweep’s best performer, on the other hand, was CBS Television Distribution’s Judge Judy, which scored an 8.0 household ratings average for the sweep, according to Nielsen Media Research, up 7% from February 2013, and the show’s highest sweep rating since Feb. 2008. Judy led all syndies for the third major sweep in a row.

While Judy’s ratings were by far the genre's highest, overall court proved to be the sweep’s strongest genre, with all the veterans up from last year.

Warner Bros.’ People’s Court, the second-ranked court, gained 5% from last February to a 2.0. Twentieth’s Divorce Court climbed 29% to a 1.8, the biggest jump in the genre. Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis picked up 13% to a 1.7, tying Twentieth’s Judge Alex, which climbed 21% from last February, despite having been canceled. In its first February outing, MGM’s Paternity Court averaged a 1.1, up 37% from its 0.8 debut in the week ended Sept. 29, 2013.

Elsewhere in daytime, CTD’s Dr. Phil won the talk race for the seventh sweep in a row, improving 3% from last February to a 3.5 full-sweep average. Phil also topped the key women 25-54 demographic, increasing 5% from last year to a 2.0.

Warner Bros.’ Ellen Degeneres was one of five talkers — along with Disney/ABC’s Katie, Sony Pictures Television’s Queen Latifah, SPT’s Dr. Oz, and NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey — that did not count any of the lower-rated Olympic days in its sweep average.

That said, Ellen posted its highest sweep ratings ever over those two weeks, scoring a 3.2 and gaining 19% from February 2013. Ellen also came in second among women 25-54, averaging a 1.9. Disney/ABC’s Live with Kelly and Michael, which included the whole sweep in its ratings, grew 11% year to year to a 3.1. Dr. Oz dipped 8% to a 2.3 for fourth place. 

NBCU’s Maury slipped 8% to a 2.2, but finished first among women 18-34 at a 1.3. Among women 18-49, Maury scored a 1.4, tying Dr. Phil for second place behind Ellen, which hit a 1.5.

NBCU’s Steve Harvey in its sophomore year scored a 2.1, up 31% from last February, and marking the sweep’s largest year-to-year increase of any talk show. Disney/ABC’s Katie, which will end its run after this season, dropped 5% to a 1.8. CTD’s Rachael Ray and NBCU’s Steve Wilkos both held steady compared to last February at a 1.6, tying Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams, which gained 23%. 

NBCU’s Jerry Springer gave back 7% to a 1.4, while CTD’s The Doctors eased 14% to a 1.2. NBCU’s Trisha was unchanged at a 0.6, while Meredith’s The Better Show came in last at a 0.2 in its first nationally-rated February sweep.

SPT’s rookie Queen Latifah averaged a 1.2 in its first February sweep, down 14% from its 1.4 debut in the week ended Sept. 22. Warner Bros.’ Bethenny, which won’t return after this season, finished at a 0.9, flat compared to its 0.9 debut in the week ended Sept. 22. (Bethenny actually premiered in the week ended Sept. 15, but that rating was reprocessed by Nielsen.) Further back, CTD’s The Test turned in a 0.7, up from a 0.6 in the week ended Sept. 15.

In late night, CTD’s Arsenio Hall averaged a 0.7, down 36% from its 1.1 premiere in the week ended Sept. 15, but on par with its season-to-date average. Arsenio, which just scored some of its highest ratings of the year with Prince’s appearance, will return next season.

In access, CTD’s Entertainment Tonight led the magazines for the 94th straight sweep with a 3.7, off 8% from last year. CTD’s Inside Edition declined 6% to a 3.1. NBCU’s Access Hollywood—which went all out for the Winter Games, covering breaking Olympic news from Sochi—surged 11% from last year to a 2.1, tying Warner Bros.’ TMZ, which was flat. Warner Bros.’ Extra averaged a 1.9, up 19% from last February, and notching the biggest increase of any magazine. Like Ellen and several of the talkers, Extra only counted two weeks of the sweep in its average, and was frequently preempted during the Olympics. CTD’s The Insider was off 7% to a 1.4.

MGM’s RightThisMinute clocked a 1.2 in its first nationally rated February sweep, followed by Twentieth’s Dish Nation, which added 10% to a 1.1. Trifecta’s already-canceled America Now averaged a 0.4 in its first—and last—February sweep, while Trifecta’s newcomer OK! TV chimed in with a 0.2.

Among the game shows, CTD’s Wheel of Fortune slid 3% from last February to a 7.4, holding on to second place in overall syndication. CTD’s Jeopardy! picked up 3% to a 7.0. Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud finished up 9% to hit a 5.8 for the sweep, eyeing a 6.0 among households. Feud also beat both Wheel and Jeopardy! at a 3.0 among women 25-54, with Wheel averaging a 2.8 and Jeopardy! a 2.6 in the demo. Disney/ABC’s Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, with new host Cedric the Entertainer, tumbled 15% to a 2.2.

Warner Bros.’ The Big Bang Theory topped the off-net sitcoms, although the show lost 14% from last year to a 6.6. Twentieth’s newcomer Modern Family came in second among the sitcoms in its first February sweep at a 4.9, up 19% from the show’s 4.1 debut in the week ending Sept. 29. Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men slumped 26% to a 4.0. Twentieth’s Family Guy erased 19% of its ratings to land at a 3.0. Twentieth’s How I Met Your Mother softened 18% to a 2.3. SPT’s Seinfeld, in its 19th season, sagged 21% to a 1.9, tying Twentieth’s newcomer The Cleveland Show. Warner Bros.’ Friends, in its 16th season, faded 14% to a 1.8. SPT’s Rules of Engagement in year two was flat at a 1.7, while Twentieth’s King of the Hill in its 13th season plunged 30% to a 1.6.

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.