‘Matlock’ Slugs It Out

WCBS-TV is gambling that “Matlock” can compete with “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (WABCTV) and “Donahue” (WNBCTV) by grabbing a different audience. But, so far, the drama is doing no better than its predecessor, “Geraldo.” Since debuting in the 4 p.m. slot Jan. 14, “Matlock” has averaged only a 4.3 rating/10 share in Nielsen.

Station spokesman Martin Blair noted that “Matlock” was preempted several times to allow for war coverage. Because of the numerous interruptions, he said, “a lot of people don’t know it’s on.”

The series may, in fact, find a larger audience. Its national numbers are strong, and previous action-adventure shows – “Quincy” and “The Rockford Files” – have done well in the same slot.

Jack Fentress, Petry v.p. and director of programming, says “Matlock” is good counter-programming. “If you’re going for the same audience, then it’s impossible [to compete],” he said. John von Soosten, v.p. and director of programming at Katz, thinks the true test will be the demographics. “Until we see the January and February demos, it’s too soon to tell,” he said.

Van Soosten and Fentress both added that no show is likely to unseat “Oprah,” which has a lock on the time slot.

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