Springer tops Winfrey for the first time

His 8.2 beats her 8.0

Oprah Winfrey can defeat the beef industry in the heart of cow country, but even the long-reigning queen of talk can’t stop the “Jerry Springer” juggernaut.

For the first time in a decade, “Oprah Winfrey” surrendered the No. 1 spot in the daytime talkshow derby for the week ending Feb. 22. USA Networks’ “Jerry Springer” averaged an all-time high 8.2 national Nielsen household rating that week, compared to an 8.0 for King World’s “Oprah Winfrey.” Winfrey no doubt is consoled by her big victory last week in a defamation lawsuit filed by a group of Texas cattlemen.

For Springer, the sky seems to be the limit now that he’s pushed past the “Oprah” standard. The show, notorious for its on-stage wrestling matches and racy topics, has hit all-time high ratings for the past five weeks in a row. He’s also been consistently beating Winfrey in key adult demographic categories this season.

Compared to this time last year, “Jerry Springer’s” ratings have spiked an eye-popping 183%. The fast rise has made “Jerry Springer” a favorite target of TV critics, but USA Networks Studios chairman Greg Meidel notes that millions of Americans vote with their remote controls every day.

“This show is about entertainment and nothing more,” said Meidel on Wednesday in savoring Springer’s ground-breaking victory. “It’s not meant to be taken seriously. The audience has a lot of choices out there, and obviously there are millions of people who like to have fun with Jerry.”

Though overshadowed by Springer’s feat, the rest of the yak pack also had a good week. With help from a Feb. 18 visit from Tom Cruise, Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell” jumped 15% from the previous week to a 5.3.

Paramount’s “Montel Williams” climbed 4% from week-to-week to a 4.9. WB’s “Jenny Jones” hiked 14% to a season-high 4.8. USA’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” rose 5% to a 4.5, while Buena Vista TV’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” eased 5% to a 4.1. Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki Lake” inched up 2% to a season-high 4.1. Par’s “Maury Povich” climbed 6% to a 3.6.

In latenight, Buena Vista TV’s “Keenen Ivory Wayans Show” jumped 12% week-to-week to a 1.8 from a 1.6, while Col TriStar’s “Vibe” was flat at a 1.4. Among the other freshman syndie strips, Warner Bros.’ “People’s Court” was unchanged from week-to-week at a 3.0, as was Eyemark Entertainment’s “Martha Stewart Living” at a 2.6. Eyemark’s “Gayle King” was up 10% to a 2.2. Worldvision’s “Pictionary” fell 7% to a 1.3.

“Jerry Springer” aside, the other success stories of the week came from sophomore reality strips “Judge Judy” and “Real TV.” Worldvision’s “Judy” rose 7% from the previous week to an all-time high 4.8, while Paramount’s “Real TV” spiked 8% to a best-ever 4.1. Interestingly, “Real TV” has the edge over “Judge Judy” in the key demographic categories of adults 18-34, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54.

Among access magazine strips, Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” led the field as usual with a 4% increase from the previous week to a 7.2. King World’s “Inside Edition” was a distant second, falling 2% from week-to-week to a 4.8. Warner Bros.’ “Extra” climbed 5% to a 4.5. King World’s “American Journal” was flat at a 3.0, while NBC/Twentieth TV’s “Access Hollywood” was also unchanged from the previous week at a 2.4.

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