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Syndies: Cable news took bite out of May sweep

Most of syndication's top-tier programs -- such as King World Productions' Oprah,
Paramount Television's Entertainment Tonight and King World's Wheel of
-- had no trouble maintaining leadership in their genres as the May
sweep, covering April 24-May 21, came to a close.

But there was some year-to-year slippage as shows faced stronger post-war
competition from cable news, particularly Fox News Channel, which was up 67%
in daytime compared to last May.

Court shows were among the strongest performers in daytime, although leader
Paramount's Judge Judy was down 12% from last May to a 5.0 sweep average.

Still, it remained well ahead of Paramount's second-place Judge Joe
, which was up 3% from last year to a 3.5 average.

Twentieth Television's Divorce Court remained third with a 2.9, up 7%.

Twentieth's Texas Justice was unchanged from its year-ago 2.2 average.

Warner Bros.' People's Court earned a 2.1, up 5% from last year.

Warner Bros.' Judge Greg Mathis did not air as an hour-long
show last May, but it was up 19% to 1.9 since it became an hour last September.

Sony Pictures Television's Judge Hatchett slipped 6% to 1.7.

Talk was mixed, although eight shows scored rating averages of 1.5 or better.

Oprah breezed through the May sweep with a 6.2, up 7% from last
year and 27% higher than King World's second-place Dr. Phil. Dr.
, the top first-run rookie, averaged a formidable 4.9 although that was
down 11% from the February sweep.

Buena Vista Television's Live with Regis and Kelly was up 9% from last May to
3.8. Universal Television's Maury dropped 6% to 3.1.

Paramount's Montel Williams was off 4% to 2.5.

Universal's The Jerry Springer Show lost 8% to 2.4.

Sony's Ricki Lake fell 11% to 1.6. Warner Bros.' Jenny Jones
sank 21% to 1.5.

Elsewhere, most of the first-run rookie strips, like Dr. Phil, lost
ground from the most recent sweep, but a couple of newcomers resisted the

Warner Bros.' Celebrity Justice held steady sweep-to-sweep at a 1.3
average, airing mostly in late-night slots.

The show also finally scored its year-two renewal, which has been slow in

Twentieth's Good Day Live -- which went national in January after a slow
rollout -- was up 11% from February to a 1.0 average.

On the downside, Buena Vista's rookie game show, Who Wants to Be a
, slipped 9% from the prior sweep to a 3.2 average.

Sony's Pyramid lost 5% to 1.9.

NBC Enterprises' The John Walsh Show dropped 13% to 1.3.

Looking at shows that aren't expected back next season, Warner Bros.' The
Caroline Rhea Show
fell 10% to 0.9 and Paramount's Life
plunged 17% to 0.5.

In access, the magazines were the only genre without at least one show with a
double-digit decline.

Paramount's ET was the No. 1 magazine for the
14th consecutive May sweep by a 74% margin over King World's
second-place Inside Edition, despite a 5% dip to 5.4.

Inside Edition was up 3% to 3.1. Warner Bros.' Extra and
NBC Enterprises' Access Hollywood remained deadlocked at a 2.5 average
for each, with both shows even with their prior-year performance.

Among the veteran game and relationship shows, Wheel of Fortune
remained on top with an 8.8 average, unchanged from last year, although King
World's second-place Jeopardy! was down 9% to a 7.0 average.

King World's Hollywood Squares was up 4% to 2.6. Tribune's Family
lost 10% to 1.8.

Warner Bros.' Blind Date fell 11% to 1.7, tying Warner Bros.'
elimiDate, which was up 13% to 1.7.

Warner Bros.' Fifth Wheel skidded 7% to 1.3, tying Warner Bros.'
Street Smarts, which was down 13% from last May.

Warner Bros.' Change of Heart plummeted 21% to 1.1. And Sony's
Shipmates sank 20% to 0.8.

In off-net sitcom action, Warner Bros.' Friends and Sony's Seinfeld
finished in a dead heat, with each show earning a 6.6 average.

Friends was down 4%, while Seinfeld -- which picked up a
double-run on TBS Superstation this season -- was up 10%.

Coming in a strong third was King World's Everybody Loves Raymond,
which was up 9% to 6.2 in its second season.

Warner Bros. rookie Will & Grace was off 9% from February to a
3.9 average.

Fellow rookie Carsey-Werner-Mandabach's That 70s Show averaged 3.7
for fifth place and down 5% from the prior sweep.

Also of note, the race between the two major movie-review weeklies tightened
significantly, as Buena Vista's Ebert & Roeper declined significantly
to a 2.0 average while Paramount's Hot Ticket increased 6% from last May
to a 1.7.

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.