Trying To Gain Access

The final November sweeps results indicate a dire need for new programming in daytime and latenight time periods, but access could still be a tough nut to crack.

In a glum firstrun season, offnet sitcoms are proving to be the only bright spots.

Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons” clinched its status as the biggest syndie hit of the season.

According to an analysis of the Nielsen sweeps by the station rep firm Petry, the cartoon clan averaged a 7.1 rating/11 share during the sweeps. That’s far above last November’s time period average of a 5.6/10, and a substantial improvement in all key demos.

Because the show performs best in access, where it averages a 7.7/11, a number of stations are likely to upgrade it next season. Bart & Co. is cleared in slightly more than 74% of the U.S. this season, with the remaining stations kicking in next fall.

Warner Bros, could see some access upgrades for “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” based on its sweeps performance. The sitcom averaged a 6.9/12 in the critical daypart in about 39% of the country.

MCA TV’s “Coach” is struggling in more than 89% of the country with a 4.3/11, down more than half a rating and a share from November ’93.

If “Coach” fails to improve, it could lead to some openings in access (where the show is cleared in about 36% of the U.S.) and late fringe (accounting for more than 39% of its coverage).

The Petry sweeps results validate the theory that there is room for more talkers next year.

With most of the new batch not working well, there undoubtedly will be holes for stations to plug at the upcoming National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab in Las Vegas.

King World’s “Oprah Winfrey” scored a 10.2/31, a rating that would be amazing had the yak pack champ not earned an 11.0/33 a year ago. In the critical women demos, the show fell more than half a point.

Despite its decline, “Oprah” still more than doubles her nearest competitor in household ratings.

The race has tightened in the battle for younger women, however, with Columbia TriStar upstart “Ricki Lake” achieving a 4.9/24 in that category compared to the talk queen’s 7.1/38. Until recently, no one even came close.

For older women, “Oprah” is still far out front with a 40 share; “Ricki” has a 15.

Multimedia’s “Donahue” (4.4/19) dropped about half a point year-to-year in households and demos, but surpassed “Ricki” (4.0/13) in the household race.

In head-to-head competition, “Ricki” was 10 shares ahead of “Donahue” with younger women and 2 shares ahead with the 25-54 bracket. “Donahue’s” strength came in women over age 55.

Multimedia’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” (4.4/18), predominantly cleared in daytime, also led “Ricki” in households, but was off a bit year-to-year.

Of the other returning talk strips, Par’s older-skewing “Maury Povich” (4.3/17) and Buena Vista TV’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” (5.4/25) were basically unchanged.

WB’s “Jenny Jones,” Paramount’s “Montel Williams” and Multimedia’s “Jerry Springer” proved that patience can pay off in syndication.

“Jenny” had a tremendous book, with a 3.7/13 overall average. It jumped 1.7/6 with young women, and more than a half point and 2 shares among older women.

“Montel” (3.6/13) gained with both younger and older women, and turned in an impressive 5.6/19 average in early fringe.

“Jerry Springer” (3.3/15) also looked solid, up 2 shares year-to-year and more than half a point in younger women demos. Tribune’s “Geraldo,” hampered now by going head-to-head with “Oprah” in L.A., finished slightly off its year-ago average in households and key demos. Twentieth’s “Gordon Elliott,” which has been outperforming this season’s new talkshows in the separate Nielsen national barter rankings, had a combined average of a 2.1/10, down from its 2.5/14 November ’93 time period average.

In daytime and latenight, Group W’s “Marilu” and “Jones & Jury,” BVTV’s “Judge for Yourself,” Paramount’s “Jon Stewart” and Multimedia’s “Susan Powter” and “Dennis Prager” all had terrible books and are in trouble.

The best of the bunch, Col’s latenight entry “The Newz,” was down nearly half a point from its time period average last year and was off about a half-point in the younger demos.

Multimedia’s “Rush Limbaugh” isn’t going anywhere, however. The vet talker held steady at a 2.3/16, plunging in young women and gaining with older viewers.

In the access hour leading into primetime, where the older-skewing “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” live and prosper alongside the entrenched – and not so entrenched – magazine strips, there appears to be little room for new shows.

Par’s “Entertainment Tonight” continued to prove its dynamism, rising a few tenths to 8.7/16. It suffered slight erosion in younger demos.

WB’s new “Extra-The Entertainment Magazine” finished its first sweeps with a 3.7/9, down a full rating point from the year-ago timeslot average. It lost a half-point or more in the key demos. Reps say another book like November’s could spell trouble for the fledgling strip.

KWs “Inside Edition” was up a notch to 6.7/19, while Par’s tabloid magazine “Hard Copy” (6.3/14) matched its year-ago mark.

With its access clearances decreasing and its early fringe component growing, Twentieth’s “A Current Affair” fell a half-point from last year to 5.0/13. In men 18-34, the tabmag lost half its audience.

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