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Solid bows for latenight duo

New latenight syndie strips “The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show” and “Vibe” pulled off solid debuts Monday, averaging a 3.9/9 and 3.1/7, respectively, in Nielsen’s 38 overnight metered markets.

Although the first-night ratings data gave biz-watchers much to chew on Tuesday, industry veterans cautioned that the numbers generated by heavily promoted premieres are hardly indicative of a show’s long-term prospects.

Both shows pulled out the star-power for their debuts. “Wayans’ ” guest list included Jada Pinkett and Babyface, while “Vibe,” hosted by Chris Spencer, boasted Anthony Edwards and Brandy and a videotaped appearance by President Clinton.

As expected, Buena Vista TV’s “Wayans” benefited from a higher average lead-in rating in most markets than Columbia TriStar Television Distribution’s “Vibe.” Across the metered markets, “Wayans” averaged a 4.1/8 lead-in rating compared with a 3.5/7 for “Vibe.”

Both shows basically held the average rating in their timeslots from the past May sweep, which is always a good sign to station buyers taking a risk on a new show. Across the metered markets, “Wayans’ ” May ’97 timeslot average was a 3.8; “Vibe’s” was a 3.5.

In market by market comparisons, both hourlong talkshows had something to crow about. Going head-to-head in New York and Los Angeles at 11 p.m., “Wayans,” airing on Fox O&Os, outscored its upstart rival on UPN O&Os, with a 6.2/13 vs. a 5.1/10 in N.Y. and a 5.1/13 vs. a 3.4/9 in L.A. At the same time, “Vibe’s” audience grew in both markets during the hour while “Wayans’ ” viewership dipped. In L.A., both shows were edged out by an episode of syndie talker “Jerry Springer” featuring panelists with hot secrets to reveal.

Day one of “Wayans” and “Vibe” didn’t have much impact on the established networks’ latenight fare; all the series were essentially on par with their summer averages. NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” averaged a 6.1/16 while CBS’ “Late Show With David Letterman” pulled in a 4.0/11. ABC’s “Politically Incorrect,” delayed in many East Coast markets by ABC’s pre-season football coverage, averaged a 2.6/10.

Still, the entrance of new competition targeting a young, urban audience did not go unnoticed by the Big Three latenight talkers. Leno and Letterman featured prominent African-American guests — MTV host Bill Bellamy and reggae star Ziggy Marley on Letterman, tennis phenom Venus Williams on Leno — and “Politically Incorrect’s” Bill Maher made a joke about his evening’s lineup, which featured three African-Americans on a panel of four.

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