Watson Wins 'Jeopardy!' and ratings

The highly publicized battle between IBM's game-playing supercomputer, Watson, and Jeopardy! champs Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter drove the veteran game show's ratings up 11% in the week ending February 20, hitting a 7.2 live plus same day national household average according to Nielsen. Those are the highest ratings in four years for CBS Television Distribution's Jeopardy!
Watson's appearances on Feb. 14, 15 and 16 averaged a 7.9 rating across the three days. Once Watson departed, the numbers dropped back to a still strong 6.5 on Feb. 17 and a 5.7 on Feb. 18.
Other games were not so lucky in the second week of the February sweep. CTD's Wheel of Fortune, syndication's household leader, dropped 5% to a 7.5. Disney-ABC's Who wants to be a Millionaire declined 4% to a 2.2. Debmar-Mercury's Family Feud, which has been on a steady rise lately, faltered 11% to a 1.6. Twentieth's Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader faded 10% to a 0.9.
The entertainment magazines all were down except for CTD's The Insider, which was flat at a 1.8. As always, CTD's Entertainment Tonight led the field with a 3.9, off 9% from the previous week. In second place, CTD's Inside Edition dropped 12% to a 2.9. NBC Universal's Access Hollywood was off 10% to a 1.9, tying Warner Bros.' TMZ, which also fell 10%. Warner Bros.' Extra down-ticked 6% to a 1.6.
That picture should improve for the magazines next week due to their coverage of the 83rd annual Academy Awards on Monday, Feb. 28. ET scored a new season-high 5.5 rating/9 share in the metered markets. NBCU's Access Hollywood came in second with a 2.8/6, followed by Extra's 2.5/5, The Insider's 2.2/5 and TMZ's 2.1/4, although TMZ is more focused on stars' troubles than on their awards.

Warner Bros.' off-net sitcom leader, Two and a Half Men, declined 2% to a 6.0, seemingly unaffected by the ongoing highly public antics of star Charlie Sheen. Twentieth's Family Guy was flat at a 4.0. CTD's Everybody Loves Raymond dipped 3% to a 2.8. Disney-ABC's My Wife and Kids had the category's biggest gain after showing its biggest loss in the prior session, climbing 13% to a 2.7. Sony's Seinfeld, slipped 4% to a 2.6. NBCU's The Office gained 4% to a 2.5. Warner Bros.' George Lopez, Twentieth's King of the Hill and Warner Bros.' Friends all were unchanged at 2.1, 2.0, and 1.8 respectively. CTD's Everybody Hates Chris tumbled 12% to a 1.5.

Sweeps promotions didn't seem to help the talk shows, all of which were down for the week except CTD's Dr. Phil and NBCU's Steve Wilkos , which were both flat. CTD's leader Oprah slipped 2% to a 5.6. Dr. Phil held steady at a 3.1, his second-highest rating of the season. Disney-ABC's Live with Regis and Kelly tumbled 16% to a third place 2.6. Sony's Dr. Oz declined 8% to a 2.3. Warner Bros.' Ellen lost 15% to a 2.2. NBCU's Maury was down 5% to a 2.0. CTD's The Doctors yielded 10% to a 1.8. CTD's Rachael Ray was off 11% to a 1.6. Steve Wilkos was unchanged at a 1.4, while NBCU's Jerry Springer relinquished 7% to a 1.3. Debmar-Mercury's Wendy Williams, the latest addition to ABC's hit show Dancing with the Stars, drooped 8% to a 1.1.

Still looking at daytime, CTD's Judge Judy remained atop the court shows, although the show dipped 4% to a 4.5. CTD's perennial second-place finisher Judge Joe Brown declined 10% to a 1.9, tying Warner Bros.' People's Court, which was flat. Warner Bros.' Judge Mathis forfeited 6% to a 1.6. Twentieth's Divorce Court sank 14% to a 1.2, while the syndicator's Judge Alex surrendered 21% to a new season low 1.1. Warner Bros.' Judge Jeanine Pirro faded 9% to a 1.0.
Among the rookie strips, CTD's Swift Justice with Nancy Grace down 7% to a 1.3. In second place, Sony's Nate Berkus, which is bringing on new executive producer Corin Nelson, was flat at a 1.0. Twentieth's Don't Forget the Lyrics declined 13% to a new season-low 0.7. Litton's Judge Karen's Court and Entertainment Studios' America's Court with Judge Ross each were unchanged at a 0.6 and 0.3, respectively.
Meanwhile, for the first three weeks of the February sweep, NBCU's slow roll-out Access Hollywood Live was up 10% over its year-ago time period average with a 1.1 rating/4 share, in its 13 metered markets. It also grew 50% over last year among women 18-49 to a 0.6/4.
Among the new off-cable and off-net strips, Twentieth's How I Met Your Mother was flat at a 2.5, while Warner Bros.' New Adventures of Old Christine declined 8% to a 1.2. Debmar-Mercury's Meet the Browns lost 9% to a new season low 1.0. Warner Bros.' off-HBO Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm both advanced 17% to a 0.7. NBCU's off-Bravo Real Housewives was steady at a 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.