Coverage of the sudden death of 16-year-old Jett Travolta, son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston, in the week ended Jan. 11, sent ratings sky-rocketing for most of syndication's access magazine shows.
CBS Television Distribution's Entertainment Tonight had the largest increase of any show in first-run syndication, jumping 32% from the prior week to a new season high 4.9 live plus same day household rating. ET also was the only access strip in first-run to be up from the prior year at this time, improving by 2%. ET's best episode aired on Jan. 5, when the show devoted most of its time to Jett's tragic story, spiking ratings 43% from the prior week to a 5.3.
In second place, CTD's Inside Edition surged 21% week to week to a new season high 3.4. NBC Universal's Access Hollywood also spiked 21% to a new season high 2.3. CTD's The Insider matched its previous season high 2.0, gaining 18%. Warner Bros.' TMZ improved 6% to a 1.9. Warner Bros.' Extra climbed 13% to match its previous season high 1.8.
In daytime, only three talk shows improved for the week. CTD's The Oprah Winfrey Show exploded out of repeats on Jan. 5, kicking off the show's "Best Life Week" with Winfrey talking frankly about her own weight gain and health problems. Oprah jumped 25% for the week to a 5.5.
In second place, CTD's Dr. Phil dipped 3% to a 3.1. Disney-ABC's Live with Regis and Kelly added 7% to a 2.9. Warner Bros.' Ellen DeGeneres grew 15% to a 2.3, after scoring a 35% increase to a 2.7 for an episode featuring four-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood on Jan. 9.
The rest of the pack was lackluster. CTD's Rachael Ray eased 5% to a 1.8. NBC Universal's Maury lost 11% to a 1.7. NBC U's Jerry Springer slipped 8% to a 1.1. NBC U's Steve Wilkos and Warner Bros.' Tyra Banks each were flat at a 1.1 and 1.0, respectively. Twentieth's The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet slipped 10% to a 0.9. NBC U's Martha Stewart fell 13% to a 0.7.
In court, like talk, only three shows were up. The leader, CTD's Judge Judy, grew 7% to a 4.6. In second place, CTD's Judge Joe Brown gained 4% to a 2.4. Warner Bros.' People's Court was flat at a 2.2. Warner Bros.' Judge Mathis skidded 11% to a 1.7. Twentieth's Judge Alex improved 7% to a 1.6. Twentieth's Divorce Court was unchanged at a 1.5. Twentieth's Cristina's Court sank 9% to a 1.0. Sony's Judge David Young declined 11% to a 0.8.
CTD's The Doctors moved into a tie for first-place among the rookies for the first time, with a 12% increase to a series high 1.9, tying NBC Universal's Deal or No Deal, which was flat. The Doctors also was the only newcomer to improve this week. The Doctors hit its biggest overnight rating ever on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan. 19, with a 2.3 rating/5 share, a 15% improvement over both its lead-in and year-ago time period averages.
The other rookie strips remained flat or down. Sony's Judge Karen fell 9% to a 1.0, tying Warner Bros.' Bonnie Hunt, which was flat. Debmar-Mercury's Trivial Pursuit: America Plays held steady at a 0.7, while Program Partners' Family Court with Judge Penny dropped 14% to a 0.6.
On the weekend, Disney-ABC's action hour, Legend of the Seeker, remained unchanged at its season low 1.6. Debmar-Mercury's off-cable strip, House of Payne, improved 37% to a new season high 2.6. Litton's off-cable weekend half-hour Storm Stories climbed 6% to a new season high 1.7.
The game shows came back strong. CTD's Wheel of Fortune and CTD's Jeopardy! each hit new season highs in the New Year. Wheel climbed 13% to a 7.9, while Jeopardy! jumped 12% to a 6.5. Disney-ABC's Who Wants to be a Millionaire inched up 4% to a 2.7, while Debmar-Mercury's Family Feud was flat at a 1.4.
The off-nets also surged as people returned to their typical TV habits. Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men jumped 18% to a 5.2. Twentieth's Family Guy climbed 11% to a 4.1. Sony's Seinfeld surged 17% to a 3.5, reclaiming third place. Warner Bros.' George Lopez leapt 27% to a new season high 3.3 and passing CTD's Everybody Loves Raymond, which had held third place for the past few weeks. Raymond, now in fifth place, improved 3% to a 3.2.
Warner Bros.' Friends and Sony's King of Queens - the star of which, Kevin James, stars in this week's top movie, Paul Blart: Mall Cop - each advanced 8% to a 2.7. Twentieth's King of the Hill improved 25% to a new season high 2.5.
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.
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