Trial’s Tribulations Dog Field Of Syndies

Syndicated magazines got slammed with double-digit losses, old stalwarts like “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” suffered declines, talkshows were mixed and weeklies headed south in year-to-year comparisons during a four-week period corresponding to the February sweeps.

All but the strongest series were hurt by competition from the O.J. Simpson trial during the week ended March 5, which encompassed the end of the sweeps, according to the Nielsen national syndication barter rankings.

Of the newsmags, Paramount’s top dog “Entertainment Tonight” sank 20% from the corresponding four-week period a year ago, falling to a 7.7 household mark from a 9.6.

King World’s “Inside Edition” (6.6) closed out the era with Bill O’Reilly as host by dropping 19% from last year’s 8.1. Par’s “Hard Copy” sank 18% to a 6.4 from a 7.8, while Twentieth’s “A Current Affair” plunged a hefty 30% to a 5.2 from 7.4 in February 1994. The tabmag ended the sweeps on a low note, slipping 8% in the final week to 4.9, matching its worst rating of the season.

KW’s “American Journal” had unspectacular demos and faded 10% in the household department to 4.4 from 4.9.

The syndicator’s “Wheel” slid 15% to a top-rated 13.9 from last year’s 16.3 four-week average (but the weekend version improved 10% to 7.6). Companion “Jeopardy!” answered with a 17% nose dive to 11.5 from 13.8.

Other games showed even steeper losses, with All American TV’s “Family Feud” plummeting 45% to 1.6 from 2.9 with Richard Dawson back in the host role.

In the deadly chat arena, KW’s “Oprah Winfrey” continued to lead the pack, but the topic-friendly show shed 16% to 9.1 from a 10.8 last year – a dive caused by some extent by Simpson trial competition in major markets such as Los Angeles.

Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake” finished second during the period, posting a whooping 46% increase to 5.7 from a 3.9 the previous February.

Amid the other big gainers was Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones,” which soared 61% to 5.0 from last year’s 3.1 amid controversy over the murder that prosecutors have blamed on the talkshow.

Continuing a trend evident during the November sweeps, Multimedia’s “Jerry Springer” skyrocketed 52% to 3.5 from 2.3, while Par’s “Montel Williams” advanced 5% to 4.1 from 3.9.

Returning to the vets, Multimedia’s “Donahue” turned in the weakest year-to-year performance of any talker, plum meting 26% to 3.7 from 5.0.

The syndicator’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” dropped 11% to 4.9 from 5.5 over the four weeks; Buena Vista TV’s “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee” slipped 13% to 4.8 from 5.4, and Par’s “Maury Povich” declined 8% to 4.5 from 4.9.

Of the remaining freshman talkers, Twentieth TV’s “Gordon Elliott” – which along with WB’s “Extra – The Entertainment Magazine” (3.8) stands the best chance among the new first-run series of returning next season – led the way with a 2.8 average over the four weeks. It slipped 10% during the final sweeps week, however.

Twentieth’s off-Fox series “The Simpsons” led among all the freshman with a 6.6 over the four weeks, and led all shows in men 18-34. WB’s “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” was second with a 6.1, while MCA TV’s “Coach” (4.5) finished in third.

In the reality genre, Twentieth’s off-Fox strip “Cops” declined 5% to 5.8, while Genesis’ “Real Stories of the Highway Patrol” raced ahead 21% from a year ago to 4.1.

Among weeklies, Par’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” colonized an 8.0, down 11% from last year’s 9.0; All American’s “Baywatch” dipped 3% to a well-tanned 7.3 average. Of the newcomers, MCA’s “Journeys of Hercules” averaged an impressive 5.9 over the four weeks, and hit a best-yet 6.4 in the final week (a tenth ahead of third-ranked “Baywatch”).

The news wasn’t so good for MCA’s “Vanishing Son,” which posted a 4.4 during February and watched 22% of its audience vanish in the final week to a season-low mark of 3.9.

Also, Rusher’s “Lonesome Dove” (3.2) fell 11% week-to-week to its lowest score yet, and averaged a 3.4 over the four week period.

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