Scandal boosts ‘Live’

Talker jumps 13% on heels of Gifford saga

Kathie Lee Gifford’s personal troubles stemming from the videotaped tryst of husband Frank Gifford have evidently given a boost to the ratings of “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee,” as evidenced in the Nielsen syndication ratings for the week ending May 25 (overlapping three weekdays of the May sweeps).

As the Gifford story circulated through both the mainstream and tabloid media, “Live” enjoyed the biggest increase for any talker during the week, surging 13% to 4.5 and leaping from sixth the week before into a third-place tie with “Montel Williams.” It was the show’s best rating since Jan. 13 and represented a 10% jump year-to-year.

Meanwhile, “Oprah Winfrey,” whose host has been forced this week to grapple with a difficult story of her own (she publicly denied rumors that she is gay), suffered the biggest decline of any talkshow for the week. It slipped 9%, from 8.6 to 7.8.

That coincided with 7% rises for “Rosie O’Donnell” (from 4.5 to 4.8) and “Montel” (4.2 up to 4.5). In fifth place among yakkers after a 5% bump was “Jenny Jones” (4.3). “Sally Jessy Raphael” fell to sixth (4.2) but was up 35% from the 3.1 the show stood at the year before. “Maury Povich,” whose host recently signed a lucrative new deal, lost 5% (3.7) for seventh place.

Completing the talk picture, “Ricki Lake” stood eighth for the week, rising a modest 3% to 3.6 but down 5% year-to-year. “Jerry Springer” (3.2) took ninth, “Geraldo” 10th at 2.0 (off 13% from last year) and newcomer “In Person With Maureen O’Boyle” 11th, gaining 7% to 1.5.

In the magazine race, “Entertainment Tonight” opened up a huge lead on second-place “Inside Edition.” Despite dropping slightly to 5.7 from the week before, “ET” was up 8% year-to-year and now enjoys more than a full point advantage over “Edition,” which at 4.4 was down 14% from last year.

“Hard Copy” improved 5% (from 3.8 to 4.0) but fell 2% from a year ago. “Extra” rose slightly to 3.5, while “American Journal” dipped 6% to 2.9 (off 7% from its lead-in and a 15% decline from a year ago). “Access Hollywood” gained 12% from the previous week, rebounding from a series-low 2.5 to 2.8 (a 24% dive from its metered market lead-in).

Aud losses

Off-net sitcoms all suffered audience losses, in part due to the lower HUT (Homes Using Television) levels that coincide with the Memorial Day weekend.

“Home Improvement” tumbled to its lowest rating of the season, sliding to 8.1, but still stood 14% better than the previous year. “Seinfeld” dropped 5%, from 7.7 to 7.3, but was still up 15% year-to-year. And while “The Simpsons” eased 2% to 6.2, the rating represented a 22% improvement from last year for the resurgent comedy.

In fourth place was “Mad About You” at 4.2, keeping the show at its season low for a third week running. “Martin” fell to its all-time worst numbers, falling 7% to 2.5. In the back of the pack, while “Blossom” rose 38%, it only brought the show up to 1.1 (down 39% from last year). “Dinosaurs” edged forward 29%, to 0.9.

Reality much the same

The reality strips were mostly unchanged. “Real TV” was flat at 3.3. “Cops” dipped 7% to 2.8 (down 10% from last year). And “Judge Judy” (2.2), “Real Stories of the Highway Patrol” (2.0) and “LAPD” (1.5) were all unchanged from last week. In latenight, “Strange Universe” improved 8% to 1.4.

As for the weeklies, “Xena: Warrior Princess” made it nine straight weeks at the top, gaining 9% from 5.6 to 6.1 and soaring to a 20% increase year-to-year. “Xena’s” muscle mate “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” powered up 14% to 5.7, a 6% gain in strength from last year.

“Baywatch” was off 2% from last week to 4.2 (still 24% ahead of last year’s pace), while “The Outer Limits” floated up 6% to 3.6 and “Babylon 5” fell 3% to 3.0.

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