O.J. Trial Bites Into Syndies

The O.J. Simpson trial continued to wreak havoc on syndicated shows, most of which sank for the week ending Feb. 26, which overlapped with the third week of the February sweeps.

Compared to last year, most shows suffered sharp declines, part of which may be attributed to last year’s inflated ratings for shows cleared on CBS affiliates that had higher ratings with 1994 Winter Olympics coverage.

All of the top 10 established strips showed double-digit declines compared to a year ago, with the magazine shows especially hard-hit.

King World’s “Wheel of Fortune” dropped 18% to a 13.6 from last year’s 16.6, according to Nielsen. “Jeopardy!” also fell 19% to 11.3 from a 14.0.

In the magazine genre, Twentieth TV’s “A Current Affair” continued to drop from last year’s numbers with a 33% fall to a 5.3, the worst among the magazines. Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” also fell 26% to a 7.4 from a 10.0.

Par’s “Hard Copy” fell 16% from a 7.6 to a 6.4, while King World’s “Inside Edition” took a 23% tumble from an 8.4 to a 6.5. The show recently lost both its executive producers. King World’s “American Journal” slipped 12% from a 5.5 to a 4.4.

In the off-network arena, Viacom’s “Roseanne” lost 23% from a year ago to a 6.9. Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s “Married… With Children” fell 12% to a 5.9 from a 6.7. Buena Vista’s “Empty Nest” lost 28% to 1.3 from 1.8. TPS’ “The Wonder Years” suffered the biggest loss of the off-network shows, with a 52% drop from 2.7 to a 1.3.

‘Oprah’ drop-off

Among the talkshows, a return to racier topics did not boost King World’s “Oprah Winfrey,” which continued to fall, suffering a 16% drop from a 10.1 to a 8.5.

Multimedia’s “Donahue” also plunged 29%, the worst of any talker, from last year’s 5.2 to a 3.7, while stablemate “Sally Jessy Raphael” lost 14% from a 5.7 to a 4.9. Buena Vista’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” dropped 20% from a 5.6 to a 4.5.

The three hottest talkers – Col’s “Ricki Lake,” WB’s “Jenny Jones” and Multimedia’s “Jerry Springer” – were the only gainers for the week. “Ricki Lake” was up 25% from a 4.4 to 5.5 while “Jenny Jones” skyrocketed 66% from a 3.2 to 5.3 and “Jerry Springer” was up 52% from 2.3 to 3.5.

Among the freshman shows, MCA’s “Last Call” continued to struggle with a 0.9, its worst ratings yet and an 18% drop from last week’s 1.1. Warner Bros.’ “Extra – The Entertainment Magazine” was flat at a 3.9.

Among freshman off-net fare, Twentieth’s “The Simpsons” was the highest-rated new strip for the 15th time in 17 weeks with a 6.4. The show also took the key demo categories of adults 18-34 with a 4.7, adults 18-49 (4.0) and adults 25-34 (3.4). Warner Bros.’ “Fresh Prince” fell 8% to a 5.8 and MCA’s “Coach” dropped 9% to a 4.2.

Some of the new weeklies were showing life, with MCA’s “Vanishing Son” jumping 25% to a 5.0. Par’s “Sightings” also climbed 11% to 4.2 from a 3.8.

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