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Syndies slog to end of sweeps

Ratings for the O.J. Simpson trial may be down, but the double-murder saga continued to have a major impact on syndicated shows – particularly those in access – during the May sweeps.

The four weeks of the advertiser-oriented Nielsen national barter rankings, which roughly correspond to the local market measurement period, indicate ratings were sharply lower.

Adding the week ended May 21 to the mix, the closely watched magazine group took a beating.

King World’s “Inside Edition,” with Deborah Norville behind the anchor desk for the 11th week, slipped 12% to 5.8 from its four-week average a year ago. The fall from second to third place put it behind tabloid magazine leader “Hard Copy,” which dipped 6% to 6.0.

‘ET’ tops mags

Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” averaged a 6.5 in May, continuing to rule the magazine roost despite a 13% decline from a year ago. “ET’s” move to the CBS O& Os in the top three markets may have been partially to blame.

Back in the tabmag fold, Twentieth TV’s “A Current Affair” took a major hit, plunging 25% to 4.6 from last May’s 6.1; KW’s “American Journal” eased 2% to 4.0, while Warner Bros.’ “Extra – The Entertainment Magazine” posted a four-week average of 3.6 in its first May sweeps.

‘Oprah’ top talker

Among talkshows, KW’s “Oprah Winfrey” led the field in households with an 8.0, down 14% from last year’s May average of 9.3. The program has been particularly hard hit in L.A., where it is competing against local Simpson trial broadcasts.

“Oprah” still maintained a healthy household lead over Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake” (4.9), which shot up 20% over last May. WB’s “Jenny Jones” leaped a staggering 53% from last May to a four-week average of 4.6, thanks in part to the addition of numerous double runs.

Multimedia’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” (4.4) dropped 6%, while Buena Vista TV veteran “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” rose 5% to 4.3. Par’s “Montel Williams” jumped 15% to 3.9 and matched its season high of 4.5 in the final week.

In the gameshow ring, KW’s “Wheel of Fortune” (12.1) rolled down 8% from the previous May, while companion “Jeopardy!” buzzed in a 14% decline to 9.6.

Off-net sitcoms found the going rocky, with Carsey-Werner’s “Roseanne” sinking a hefty 24% from a year ago to a four-week mark of 5.8, and Columbia TriStar’s “Married… With Children” suffering a 12% decline to 5.2. In fact, the only returning sitcom to show growth was WB’s “Family Matters,” which inched up 2% to 5.4.

Among new strips, Twentieth’s “The Simpsons” was first with a 5.4, followed by WB’s “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” at 5.2 and MCA TV’s “Coach” trailing with a 3.6.

In weekly action, Par’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was in another world, losing 19% to 6.9 from last May’s 8.5. All American TV’s “Baywatch” saw its ratings diluted by 15% to 5.6, with MCA’s “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” grabbing third place with a 5.1.

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