News, heat drop ratings for syndies

Due to political damage control and a later start date, the national May sweeps ratings for most of the syndie strips were slightly lower than last year.

Many shows did not air in various markets during the sweep due to two days of coverage of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, two days of 9/11 hearings and a speech by President Bush on Iraq.

As the warmer weather comes in, television viewing usually declines, thus sweeps starting April 29, as opposed to last year’s April 24 date, may have had a negative impact on numbers.

Yet some shows managed to rise above the distractions.

Only two of the top six talkshows that were on last May were up year to year. “Oprah” rose 16% from last May to a 7.2 average and “Dr. Phil” improved 14% to a 5.6.

Even better, “Dr. Phil” had its best sweep ever in the key female 18-34 demo, up 41% to a 3.1. In women 18-49, show climbed 30% to a record 3.5.

“Live With Regis and Kelly” was No. 3 among talkers, with a 3.4 average, but was down 11% from last year, when the show gave away a house.

“Maury” was down 6% to a 2.9. “Montel Williams” was flat at 2.5 and “The Jerry Springer Show” fell 8% to 2.2.

This season there were six rookie shows, with three doing well enough to merit second seasons.

“Ellen DeGeneres” was the No. 1 rookie program for the 30th week in a row. It was up 19% from the November sweep to a 1.9, and scored 58% higher than the No. 2 rookie.

In women 18-34, “Ellen” was up 44% to a 1.3. It also took a 1.3 in femmes 18-49, a 30% improvement.

Tied at second was “On Air With Ryan Seacrest” and “Starting Over” (1.2). “Starting Over” was up 20% vs. November to a 1.2, and “Seacrest” was up 20% over its debut in January to a 1.2. In women 25-54, “Seacrest” was up 60%.

Among gameshows, the only two to improve were “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and “Family Feud.”

“Millionaire” came in at No. 10 of all syndie programs for the sweeps period. Strip was up 9% from last May to a 3.5 average; in women 25-54 the show rose 23% to a 1.6.

“Family Feud” was up 11% to a 2.0.

“Wheel of Fortune,” the No. 1 gamer and the top strip, was down 6% to a 8.3. No. 2 “Jeopardy” was up 4% to a 6.7.

Nothing to smile at

The off-net sitcom by far was the worst-scoring genre in the May sweeps. Four of the five top laffers were down double digits.

Top off-net comedy “Seinfeld” dipped 11% to a 5.9, “Friends” slid 15% to a 5.6, “Everybody Loves Raymond” tumbled 13% to 5.4, “That ’70 s Show” dropped 5% to a 3.5 and “Will & Grace” was down 13% to 3.4.

In the courtshow race, the easy winner was “Judge Judy.” Show’s 4.9 average, down 2%, was nearly double the rating of any other jurist, except for Paramount colleague “Judge Joe Brown.”

“Judge Joe Brown” was a strong No. 2 with a 3.4 average, a 3% decline from May 2003.

In the magazine race, “Entertainment Tonight” continued its roll, winning its 55th sweep in a row with a 5.1 average, 55% higher than its closest mag rival but still down 6% from last year.

The second-place mag, “Inside Edition,” was up 6% to a 3.3.

“Access Hollywood” climbed 12% to a 2.8, “Extra” improved 4% to a 2.6 and “Celebrity Justice” dropped 8% to a 1.2.

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