'Howard' jockeys for latenight slot

The Aug. 20 U.S. bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan scored a direct Nielsen hit on daytime syndie skeins for the week ended Aug. 23, according to the latest national syndie ratings report.

Ratings for the week were thrown out of whack as many daytime shows were preempted Aug. 20 for news coverage of the bombings, which were executed in retaliation for terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa earlier in the month. What’s more, President Clinton’s Aug. 17 televised mea culpa on the Monica Lewinsky affair threw syndie access strips for a loop, particularly in West Coast markets.

The week of Aug. 17 also marked Howard Stern’s bold re-entry into the broadcast TV arena with a latenight series designed for the CBS O&O group as a competitor to NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” and Fox’s “Mad TV.” As usual, Stern’s randy antics have made him a lightning rod for criticism from culture vultures, and the show has already been yanked off the air by its affils in Phoenix and Lubbock, Texas.

In its Aug. 22 preem, “Howard Stern,” cleared in 79 markets covering 71% of U.S. TV households, scored a 2.7 national household rating. By contrast, “SNL,” which reaches virtually 100% of TV households on the Peacock web, earned a 5.7 with a rerun “Best of Eddie Murphy” highlight reel, while a rerun of “Mad TV” on the Fox web landed a 3.8.

Not surprisingly, “Howard Stern” scored highest with men 18-34 (2.9), where he ranked second only to “Jerry Springer” among all firstrun syndie shows for the week. In the total viewer tally, “SNL” drew 8 million viewers to “Howard Stern’s” 3.6 million pairs of eyeballs. “Mad TV” fell in the middle with 5 million viewers.

Overall, “Howard Stern” was tied for eighth place among all syndie weeklies with the sci-fi actioner “Earth: Final Conflict,” which has much deeper national coverage than “Howard Stern.” While “Howard Stern” didn’t knock off “SNL” as promised by its host, the return of Stern to latenight broadcast TV did give a big ratings boost in its timeslot to nearly all of its affils.

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