Olympics ice many syndies

The Winter Olympics left many syndicated shows on thin ice during the four weeks of Nielsen national barter rankings corresponding to the local market February sweeps. Massive preemptions, atypical competition and inflated lead-ins conspired to cut many shows off at the knees.

Still, others prospered in the national ratings (there are often discrepancies between a show’s performance in the barter rankings and the local market sweeps reports due out in the next few weeks).

The big gold medal winner was King World’s “Wheel of Fortune.” The gameshow continued to lead the syndicated pack, climbing 4% over a year ago to a four-week average of 16.3. KW’s “Jeopardy!” took the silver with a 13.8 average, up 3% over the previous February.

In the magazine category, Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” gained 4% to a 9.6 during the month. Among the tabmags, KW’s “Inside Edition” slipped 6% to 8.1 despite almost wall-to-wall Tonya Harding coverage.

But Par’s “Hard Copy,” depending on bit players in the Harding-Nancy Kerrigan attack saga, had the best year-to-year increase with an 18% gain to 7.8.

Twentieth TV’s “A Current Affair,” which put most of its chips on Harding’s ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, dropped 10% to 7.4.

Among new reality strips, Twentieth’s off-Fox series “Cops” finished first with a 6.1 over the four weeks. The firstrun leader was KW’s newsmag “American Journal,” which earned a 4.9, followed by Genesis’ “Real Stories of the Highway Patrol” with 3.4.

The talkshow category shaped up with KW’s “Oprah Winfrey” out front with a four-week average of 10.8, off 9% from the previous February.

Multimedia’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” finished second, but slid 14% to 5.5 from its year-ago mark of 6.4.

Moving into sole possession of third place, Buena Vista TV’s “Live with Regis & Kathie Lee” jumped 8% from last February to 5.4. As the talk-variety show continued its ascent up the ratings ladder, Multimedia’s “Donahue” dived 18% to 5.0 for the biggest year-to-year decline of any program in the chat genre.

Par’s “The Maury Povich Show” dropped 4% to 4.9 during the month. For the week ended March 6, however, the program earned a 4.8 and edged past “Donahue” ( 4.7) for the first time.

Elsewhere, Tribune’s “Geraldo” fell 17% to 4.3, while Viacom’s “Montel Williams” gained 18% to 3.9 — tied with Columbia’s frosh entry “Ricki Lake,” which nonetheless lost 16% of its ratings from week three to four.

Group W’s “Vicki!” inched up 3% to 3.2, while Warner Bros.’ “Jenny Jones”– benefiting from station and time period upgrades — leaped 24% to 3.1.

Twentieth’s newcomer “Ber-tice Berry” finished the four weeks with a 2.6, followed by Multimedia’s “Jerry Springer” (up 15% to 2.3) and KW’s recent addition “Rolonda.” The latter show finished February with a 2.2 but earned her best mark yet in the final week with a 2.4.

Trib’s shop-talk series “Can We Shop?” earned a 0.9, but the syndicator reported the show has logged $ 5 million in orders since its debut earlier this year, keeping pace with revenue estimates.

In late night, Multimedia’s “Rush Limbaugh” decreased 3% to 4.0, while Par’s “Arsenio” plunged 19% to 2.2 from its year-ago mark.

Viacom’s “Roseanne” was the leader in the off-net strip category, reaping an 8.8 as its ratings soared 19% over last February.

Col’s aging “Married … with Children” fell 15% to 6.9, while WB’s frosh series “Family Matters” averaged a 6.4 (the series average climbed higher because kids tend to watch the second run of the same episode more frequently than adults). Another Col series, “Designing Women,” plunged 24% to 5.0.

MGM’s off-net drama series “In the Heat of the Night” warmed up 16% to 3.7, while Turner’s “The Wonder Years” suffered the biggest drop of any syndie strip with a 37% loss to 2.7. But it was BVTV’s “Empty Nest” that wound up in last place in the off-net barter category, scoring a lackluster 1.9.

In the non-stratospheric gameshow category, “Family Feud,” trying to reenergize itself next fall by bringing back Richard Dawson as host, dropped 9% to 2.9.

Turning to the expansive weekly category, which was among the most heavily affected by the Olympics, Par’s “Star Trek: The Next Generation” finished its final February firstrun contest with an 11.7 average — a 14% decrease from the previous year.

Par’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” also took a dive, falling 20% to 9.0, but All American’s “Baywatch” (7.5) stroked its way to a 12% gain.

The “Universal Action Pack” pulled a 6.0 average in February, while WB’s “Kung Fu” sank 16% to 5.2, tying the new WB series “Babylon 5.”

BVTV’s firstrun weekly newsmag series “The Crusaders,” whose ratings were reprocessed twice during the month because of preemptions, came in at 4.2.

WB’s “Time Trax” tumbled 32% to 4.1, while Rysher’s “Highlander” eased 3% to 4.0. But Par’s “The Untouchables” took the worst beating, giving up 42% to 3.8 on its way out the door.

Cannell’s freshman series “Cobra” uncoiled a 3.6, while All American’s “Acapulco H.E.A.T.” was ice cold with a 3.3 (there are rumors the producers are shopping around for a new distributor).

BVTV’s “Siskel and Ebert” got a thumbs down from Nielsen, losing 11% to 3.1, while Rysher’s newly re-titled “Lifestyles” series with Robin Leach fell 24% to 2.9.

In the kidvid arena, a number of Disney series appeared to be running out of steam in February: BVTV’s “Goof Troop” drooped 30% from a year ago to 2.6, “Darkwing Duck” gotroasted with a 28% decrease to 2.1, “Tale Spin” spun a 21% decline to 1.9 and “Ducktales” laid an egg, sinking 26% to 1.4.

MTM’s “Xuxa” stayed south of the ratings border, finishing with a 0.7.

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