‘Stern’ slips in soph sesh

Stations protest 'over the top' content

Ratings for “The Howard Stern Radio Show” headed south in the show’s second Saturday night outing, as groups, viewers and stations continued to protest its “over the top” content.

The syndie Saturday latenight vehicle, designed as the CBS O&O stations’ answer to NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” dropped 22% in rating and 17% in share from its Aug. 22 preem. The premiere seg of “Howard Stern” drew scathing reviews, even from Stern-friendly TV critics.

In week two, “Stern” earned a 3.8 household rating and 10 share in the 33 Nielsen overnight markets where the syndie weekly is cleared. By comparison, NBC’s “SNL” garnered a 6.4/17 in the 40 overnight markets with a rerun “Best of Chris Farley” seg.

In Gotham, “SNL” rebounded after surrendering the No. 1 spot the previous week to the “Stern” preem. On WCBS, “Howard Stern” earned a 5.9/13 last Saturday, down 16% from the previous week’s 7.0/15, versus WNBC’s 6.6/16 with “SNL.”

In Philadelphia, the shock jock lost nearly half of his boffo opening night crowd, dropping to a 4.8/12 on CBS O&O KYW, from an eye-popping 8.6/21 the previous week. But in spite of the week-to-week slide, “Howard Stern” still served up double-digit increases over timeslot averages of a month ago and year-ago for most of its stations.

Too soon to tell

Syndie biz observers say it’s too early to draw final conclusions on “Howard Stern.” However, the historical record indicates that the shock jock can always open big, but then has trouble sustaining an aud beyond the hardcore cadre that tunes into his daily syndicated radio show.

In March 1997, the Stern biopic “Private Parts” topped the domestic B.O. chart in its opening weekend, only to see audiences quickly taper off in the following weeks. In the early 1990s, Stern fronted a syndie sketch comedy vehicle that bowed to big numbers in Gotham, but stumbled soon after.

In the latest TV incarnation, Stern’s ribald brand of humor has once again drawn fire from advocacy groups, including the Parents Television Council and the oft-outraged American Family Assn. The premiere seg of “Howard Stern” showed a fair amount of femme skin in a bit involving body “makeovers” as envisioned by Stern.

Pulled in Canada

In Canada, “Howard Stern” was sold to broadcaster Chum Ltd., but last week the company opted to sidestep any controversy and shelve the show before the first seg aired. On Monday, Fox affil KJTV Lubbock, Texas, said it would no longer carry “Howard Stern” at 11 p.m. Saturday nights after getting an earful from viewers.

“He just went over the top,” said KJTV general manager Larry Landaker, who appeared in a parental advisory disclaimer spot that ran before the show. “There was no redeeming value to the show, and it was particularly degrading the way he treated women. We invited our viewers to tell us how they felt about Howard, and they did.”

Landaker noted that KJTV is known as a bold station, by Texas standards. The Fox affil ran “NYPD Blue” back in 1993 when the ABC affil in Dallas refused to carry the gritty Steven Bochco cop show.

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