Par makes over show due to ratings decline

Paramount’s syndie tabmag strip “Hard Copy” is in for a makeover during its summer hiatus, starting with the departure last week of Terry Murphy as co-anchor.

Sources close to the situation say Murphy had been asked to stay on as a senior correspondent, but she opted to leave after disagreeing with Par execs on plans for revamping the show. Murphy has been a co-anchor on the show since its inception in 1989.

Reps for Par Domestic TV confirmed Murphy’s exit as co-anchor but declined to elaborate on the show’s future. This week, “Hard Copy” begins its seven-week summer hiatus, when the show serves up repackaged segs from the past season.

Sources say Par will name a replacement for Murphy soon. The changeover has already prompted speculation about the future of “Hard Copy” co-anchor Barry Nolan, whose contract expires in the fall. Sources say Par execs are still weighing whether to go with an all-new team, or switch to a solo anchor format.

“Hard Copy” has seen steady ratings declines over the past three seasons in the face of prime access timeslots from upstart syndie newsmags such as Warner Bros.’ “Extra.” The loss of prime access timeslots (where the available audience is largest outside of primetime) in top major markets has cut into its overall national performance.

During the past May sweep, “Hard Copy” averaged a 3.1 Nielsen household rating nationally, down 20% from its 3.9 showing in the May ’97 sweep.

However, “Hard Copy” isn’t in danger of cancellation — Par has renewed the show, largely in afternoon/evening timeslots, through at least 2000 in most top markets.

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