Shot of ‘Dr. Phil’ cures syndie ills

Skein may be following 'Rosie' on the path to success

The highly anticipated debut of “Dr. Phil” was just what the syndication doctor ordered — the best premiere ratings performance by a syndicated talk show since “The Oprah Winfrey Show” debuted in 1986.

King World/Paramount’s “Dr. Phil,” starring life strategist Dr. Phil McGraw, earned a 5.2 weighted metered market average rating/14 share on Monday, according to Nielsen.

“Oprah,” from which “Dr. Phil” has sprung, earned a 6.5 in fall 1986, when viewership was considerably less fragmented. (The share earned by “Oprah’s” series preem was not available.)

“Dr. Phil’s” debut performance was up six share points from its 2.6/8 lead-in, and the show ranked first in its time period in 34 of the 52 metered markets in which it aired Monday.

While one day’s performance does not guarantee a hit, “Dr. Phil’s” premiere is still good news to the entire syndie sector, which has grown tired of having to look back to the June 1996 launch of “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” as the last out-of-the-box sensation.

Researchers agreed Tuesday that considering changes in the TV landscape, “Dr. Phil’s” perf is in fact on par with that of “The Rosie O’Donnell Show’s” first day, which tallied a 4.4/16.

While “Dr. Phil’s” rating was higher than “Rosie’s,” its share was lower.

“This is the most exciting launch that I’ve ever seen,” Greg Meidel, programming prexy for Paramount Domestic TV, told Daily Variety. “It’s revived the business. Competitors have been calling to say thank you. As competitive as we all are, it’s good for them, too, that a show can break through the clutter.”

King World topper Roger King concurred.

“People started thinking 2.0 ratings were the No. 1 shows,” King said. “It’s good to see I have the hit, but it proves the point that good syndicated television works.”

Back to the grindstone

Meidel added that everyone involved in the show sees the ratings game as a marathon, and that after celebrating first-day success, noses went right back to the grindstone Tuesday, working on future episodes of “Dr. Phil.”

He couldn’t help, however, being additionally encouraged by the fact that in many markets, “Dr. Phil” exhibited growth from quarter hour to quarter hour. That indicates viewers kept watching and new ones joined them as the show progressed.

Meidel and King both said they have faith the show will continue to perform because it reps the right combination of so many elements.

“It was a great coordinated effort from Oprah’s Harpo Prods., which created the show, to King World and Paramount,” King said. “There was a lot of thinking, a lot of planning, a lot of money and a lot of people working on this show.”

In a statement, Winfrey said: “I know that nobody does this alone. I’m thankful to Paramount and King World for pulling together such a great team.”

“‘Dr. Phil’ is the ultimate in appointment TV,” Meidel said. “Audiences tuned in because everything worked, from the talent of Dr. Phil, to the promo campaign, the cover of Newsweek, the stations’ commitment. And it’s a real compliment to our staffs. Everyone has worked so hard in the last 17 months.”

Big Monday

Monday was a big day for several syndie players. “Oprah” earned its highest season preem since 1998, turning in a 7.5/18, and some positive first-day stories emerged from the new, daily syndicated series that debuted alongside “Dr. Phil.”

National household ratings for the first week of “The Caroline Rhea Show” and “Celebrity Justice” were pleasantly surprising as well.

Buena Vista’s syndie version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” earned a 3.1 weighted metered market rating/7 share, which is down one share point from its lead-in (3.4/8).

Hosted by Meredith Viera, “Millionaire” is cleared in 44 metered markets, mainly in access and early fringe time periods on network-affiliated stations. It follows “Dr. Phil in five of the top 10 markets.

Fellow gamer “Pyramid” debuted in 51 metered markets to a 2.1/5, which also was down a share from its lead-in (2.3/6). Sony’s revival airs mainly in daytime, early fringe and some access time periods.

Twentieth Television’s “The Rob Nelson Show” and Tribune’s “Beyond With James Van Praagh” did not fare as well, although they, too, were down just a share point each from their lead-ins.

“Rob Nelson,” which aired in 50 metered markets mainly in daytime, earned a 1.2/4.

“Beyond,” in 47 metered markets mostly in daytime, scared up a 0.8/3.

Earlier numbers

In addition to overnight ratings for the first day of this week’s premiere shows, national household ratings became available Tuesday for the week ending Sept. 8, which comprised the first week of “The Wayne Brady Show,” “The Caroline Rhea Show” and “Celebrity Justice.”

“Wayne” will not have national ratings because it doesn’t have a barter advertising element.

“Celebrity Justice,” which is cleared on 226 stations repping coverage of 95% of the country, earned a 1.3 national household rating for the week ending Sept. 8.

Perf is higher than nine of the 10 strips that debuted in fall 2001. That’s particularly noteworthy because “Justice” is cleared largely on sparsely viewed latenight time periods.

“Caroline,” which is on 170 stations repping coverage of 93% of the country, earned a 1.2, which is better than seven of the strips that debuted last fall. The show is cleared in latenight in seven of the top 10 markets and mostly daytime elsewhere in the country. The rating is a four-day average due to preemptions on Labor Day.

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