Olympics sap strips

Off-net sitcoms suffered in 1st week of games

Syndie off-network strips had to be content with a bronze-place showing during the first full week of CBS’ coverage of the Winter Olympics.

Virtually all of the major off-net sitcom strips posted week-to-week and year-to-year declines during the week ending Feb. 15, according to Nielsen’s latest national syndie ratings report.

For off-net comedies occupying high-visibility timeslots in prime access and latenight, the drop was attributed to increased competition from CBS and the snow-loving jocks who converged that week in Nagano, Japan. But longtime syndie biz watchers noted that the entire syndication landscape was probably spared from a deeper hit during the second week of the February sweep by the fact that the Winter Olympics themselves generated historically low ratings.

‘Home Improvement’ didn’t

Buena Vista TV’s “Home Improvement” dipped 1% from the previous week to an 8.7 household rating, which marked a 16% decline from the same week last year. Columbia TriStar’s “Seinfeld” also eased 1% week-to-week to a 7.8 and was down 8% from its year-ago mark. Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons” was unchanged from the previous week at a 6.4, but off 10% from last year.

Paramount’s off-net rookie “Frasier” fell 2% week-to-week to a 5.6. Col TriStar’s “Mad About You” dipped 3% from the previous week and sank 28% from its standing this time last year.

Syndie weeklies with primetime clearances also were hammered by Olympic-sized competition, but most daytime talkshows were unaffected. King World’s “Oprah Winfrey” led the yak pack, as usual, with a 2% gain to an 8.6, a new high for the season. USA Networks’ “Jerry Springer” hit an all-time high for the fourth week in a row, climbing 4% from week-to-week to a 7.5 and marking an eye-popping 142% hike over the same time last year.

‘Montel’ up

Paramount’s “Montel Williams” inched up 2% to a 4.7, while Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell” dipped 4% to a 4.6. Buena Vista’s “Live with Regis & Kathie Lee” eased 2% to a 4.3, tying with USA’s “Sally Jessy Raphael,” which spiked 10% week-to-week. Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones” was unchanged from the previous week at a 4.2, as was Col TriStar’s “Ricki Lake” at a 4.0. Par’s “Maury Povich” jumped 6% to a 3.4.

Among the season’s freshman first-run strips, Warner Bros.’ “The People’s Court” rose 7% week-to-week to a 3.0. Eyemark Entertainment’s “Martha Stewart Living” gained 4% to a 2.6, while companion “Gayle King” was flat for a fourth straight week at a 2.0. Worldvision’s “Pictionary” also was unchanged at a 1.4.

In latenight, Buena Vista’s “Keenen Ivory Wayans” was flat at a 1.6, while Col TriStar’s “Vibe” slipped 7% from a 1.5 to a 1.4.

‘Wheel’ tops charts

At the top of the syndie charts, King World’s “Wheel of Fortune” weighed in with a 1% gain to a 12.5, while “Jeopardy!” dipped 2% to a 10.7. Elsewhere in gameshow-land, Col TriStar’s “Newlywed/Dating Hour” took a 10% hit from a 1.0 to a 0.9.

Access magazine shows were all over the map last week, thanks mostly to Olympic-preemptions for strips carried by CBS affils, or stiffer-than-usual competish. Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” ended its six-week uptick streak by falling 7% to a 6.9. King World’s “Inside Edition” dipped 4% week-to-week to a 4.9. Warner Bros.’ “Extra” also lost 4%, landing at a 4.3.

Par’s “Hard Copy” eased 3% to a 3.6, while King World’s “American Journal” was flat at a 3.0. NBC/Twentieth TV’s “Access Hollywood” slid 11% from a 2.7 to a 2.4. Worldvision’s courtshow queen “Judge Judy” was flat from the previous week at a 4.5, while Par’s “Real TV” was also unchanged at a 3.8.

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