NEW YORK — Ratings of syndicated TV series have jumped by 8% in the fourth quarter of 1997 compared to the same period last year.
That’s the word from ASTA (Advertiser Syndicated TV Assn.), which says the 156 ad-supported TV shows averaged a 2.6 rating for the three months ended Dec. 14, the best fourth-quarter Nielsen performance for syndication in three years. ASTA is the New York-based trade association of the TV syndication community.
Tim Duncan, executive director of ASTA, said one of the reasons for the boost is that TV station program schedules are “less crowded than last year” because there are slightly fewer series in the marketplace (the 159 shows in the fourth quarter of 1996 averaged only a 2.4 rating).
Other sources say syndication has gotten a boost from the weekend play of such high-visibility off-network hours as “The X-Files,” “Walker, Texas Ranger” and “NYPD Blue,” which run on cable during the week and on broadcast TV stations on Saturday and Sunday. Until this season, almost all of the rerun hours gravitated to cable, which has locked up exclusive rights to them for the last dozen years or so.
And off-network sitcoms that run exclusively in syndication rather than on cable, like “Home Improvement,” “Seinfeld,” “The Simpsons” and “Frasier,” have continued to rack up sizable audiences, as have such returning firstrun strips as “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy!,” “Oprah,” “Entertainment Tonight” and “Jerry Springer.”
ASTA says the increased fourth-quarter ratings will help to push up advertising revenues from the $1.95 billion that TV syndication racked up during the 1996-97 season to a projected $2.05 billion for the 1997-98 season.