Fate in the balance as ‘Access’ tumbles

As NBC executives huddle this week to discuss their partnership with Fox on “Access Hollywood,” the $40 million newsmag hit a new all-time low in national Nielsen ratings the week ending April 27, which overlapped the first two weekdays of the May sweeps.

“Access Hollywood” was the only firstrun strip to fall to a new low, although several off-net sitcoms and one frosh firstrun also matched season lows, including Buena Vista TV’s powerhouse “Home Improvement,” Warner Bros.’ “Martin” and Tribune’s “Bzzz!”

“Access Hollywood” dropped 7% to 2.6 and was one of only two magazines to lose ground. Sources say NBC execs are planning sometime this week to discuss whether the partnership with Twentieth TV and the Fox station group is working. NBC is pleased with the show in New York and Los Angeles, where “Access” is beating Paramount veteran “Entertainment Tonight” so far in the sweeps, but the NTI has now fallen below the debut week of 2.7.

The only other magazine to fall for the week was King World’s “American Journal,” which is now searching for a new anchor to replace Nancy Glass, whose contract will soon expire. “American Journal” dipped 3% to 2.9, and fell 12% below its level the same week a year ago.

Paramount Domestic TV’s “Entertainment Tonight” perked up 4% to 5.9, which is off 2% from its year-ago mark. King World’s “Inside Edition” had the biggest weekly gain of 5% to 4.6, but was off the most from last year, by 19%. Par’s “Hard Copy” grew 3% to 3.8, down 12% from last year. Warner Bros.’ “Extra” was flat at 3.4, but was the only mag to improve from one year ago, by 6%.

Leading the syndie charts, King World’s “Wheel of Fortune” swirled up 3% to 11.3, off 3% from last year. “Jeopardy!” rose 4% to 9.4, but also slowed 3% from last year’s pace.

Season low

Among the off-nets, “Home Improvement” led the field, despite remaining at its season low of 8.6, which was still 6% ahead of last year. Columbia’s “Seinfeld” added 4% to 7.6, up 7% from one year ago. “Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons” inched up 2% to 6.5, which was 15% over last year’s level. “Martin” fell 10% to 2.7, tying its season low.

King World’s talkshow “Oprah” recovered from its five-week downtrend, jumping 14% to 7.9, up 5% over last year. In second place was Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell,” which eased 4% to 4.7. Par’s “Montel Williams” was third after sliding 2% to 4.2, which was still 11% ahead of last year.

Tied for fourth place were Universal’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” and Par’s “Maury Povich.” “Sally” gained 5% to 4.1, up 14% over last year. “Maury” added 8% to 4.1, also up 14% over last year. Buena Vista TV’s “Live with Regis & Kathie Lee” eased 2% to 4.0, down 7% from one year ago. Ending a five-week losing streak, Warner Bros. “Jenny Jones” leaped ahead 11% to 3.9, which was flat with last year.

Col’s “Ricki Lake” fell 3% to 3.6, off 8% from last year. Universal’s “Jerry Springer” also dropped 3% to 2.9, but was still 7% ahead of last year. Tribune’s “Geraldo” slid 5% to 1.9, down a full 21% from last year.

Par’s “Real TV” led the frosh class of strips, gaining 3% to 3.2. Following “Access Hollywood’s” 2.6, Worldvision’s “Judge Judy” was third after rising 5% to 2.2. Warner Bros.’ “In Person with Maureen O’Boyle” lost 7% to 1.4 and tied Col’s “The Dating/Newlywed Hour,” which rose 8%. Rysher’s “Strange Universe” increased 8% to 1.3, and Tribune’s “Bzzz!” fell 8% to 1.1, tying its season low.

In weekly action, Universal’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” stumbled 8% to 5.5, which was still 34% ahead of last year.. U’s “Hercules” gained 4% to 5.1, but fell 2% from last year. Par’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” was reprocessed. Rysher’s “FX … the Series” tied Par’s “Viper” for the top spot among new weeklies. “FX” climbed 16% and “Viper” powered 7% to 2.9.

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