CBS comedy expected to grow in weeknight run on stations

Great expectations surround “The Big Bang Theory,” a megahit in primetime for CBS, but not a syndication standout in the early going this fall.

The first round of national ratings won’t be available until this week, but the half-hour laffer, which Warner Bros. sold to stations at “Two and Half Men”-style prices, debuted in syndication on Sept. 19 with a primary-run average of a 1.7 household rating/3 share in Nielsen’s weighted metered markets. This score matched its lead-in and was up 6% compared with its year-ago time-period average.

“Bang” fared better in adults 18-49, with its 0.9/3 up 13% from both its lead-in and its year-ago timeslot average.

While those numbers don’t warrant popping open the champagne, they aren’t panic-worthy yet either.

“?’Big Bang’ is basically holding its lead-in and performing at or, in some cases, slightly above, its year-ago time-period average. That’s a good early sign,” says Bill Carroll, vice president of programming for Katz Media Group. “It’s not as strong as some had hoped it might be initially, but one of the factors that I think is coming into this equation is that it has to compete against the still very potent ‘Two and a Half Men.’ Based on the numbers so far, it’s way too soon to panic.”

By comparison, “Two and a Half Men” opened its fifth season in syndication at a 2.7/5 in the metered markets. The national ratings count all of a show’s runs, and both “Men” and “Bang” air in double-runs across the country. “Bang” also airs on TBS in primetime.

The “Bang” premiere numbers aren’t far from where “Men” premiered five years ago (2.0/4 in the metered markets). “Men” went on to score a 3.3 in its first nationally rated week (ending Sept. 23, 2007), and by January 2008, the show had climbed to a 5.6 same-day household average. In the most recent week of national syndication ratings, “Two and a Half Men” was the No. 2 show (6.4 in same-day household averages).

Moreover, sitcoms tend to grow steadily as the days grow darker and shorter, making January the month to watch.

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