In talk TV’s battle of brains vs. brawn, Oprah Winfrey pulled ahead of Jerry Springer to take the May sweep bragging rights in Nielsen’s overnight metered markets.

King World’s “Oprah Winfrey” averaged a 7.4 household rating and 20 share during the sweep period (April 23-May 20) in Nielsen’s 39 overnight metered markets, which cover about 60% of U.S. TV households. Studios USA’s “Jerry Springer Show,” which has soared nationally past “Oprah” on triple-digit ratings growth in recent months, came in a close second at 7.0/22.

Warner Bros.’ “Rosie O’Donnell” was a distant third with a 4.6/14. Rounding out the top five daytime yakkers in the overnight markets were Buena Vista TV’s “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” (4.0/16) and Studios USA’s “Sally Jessy Raphael” (4.0/12). Final national numbers for syndie talkers in the May sweep, which local TV stations use to set their advertising rates for the rest of the year, won’t be available until late June.

Nielsen’s latest national syndie ratings report for the week ended May 10 brings unwelcome news for Columbia TriStar TV Distribution’s rookie latenight strip “Vibe.” In mid-sweep, the struggling talk-variety vehicle fell to its lowest national household rating yet (1.2) since comedian Sinbad took over as host last October. “Vibe” will face a fresh round of latenight competish when Fox’s “Magic Hour” bows June 8.

A number of firstrun syndie weeklies also found themselves in a mid-sweep swoon. USA’s “Xena: Warrior Princess” dropped 6% from the previous week to a 4.5; compared with the same week last year, “Xena” is down 25%.

Paramount’s “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” eased 2% from week-to-week to a 4.2 and is off 19% from its year-ago mark. USA’s “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” fell 13% to a 3.9, which marked a 22% drop from year-ago.

MGM’s “The Outer Limits” rose 12% from week-to-week to a 2.9, but that’s still down 15% from this time last year. Eyemark Entertainment’s freshman actioner “Pensacola: Wings of Gold” sank 15% from the previous week to a 2.8.

By contrast, the off-net hours that are increasingly competing for weekend timeslots with firstrun fare are holding up well, in spite of their Monday-Friday exposure on cable webs like FX and USA Network.

Twentieth TV’s “NYPD Blue” tied “Hercules” for the first time this season, climbing 8% from the previous week to a 3.9. Twentieth’s “The X-Files” led all syndie weeklies, as usual, despite a 2% week-to-week decline to a 6.2.

In the off-network comedy field, the top sitcom performers seem to be cooling off after a three-season surge. For the week ended May 10, Columbia TriStar’s “Seinfeld” ranked No. 1 with a 6.9. Buena Vista TV’s “Home Improvement” fell to a 6.7, its lowest rating of the season. Twentieth TV’s “The Simpsons” slipped 2% to a 5.3.

Paramount’s “Frasier,” winding up its rookie off-net season, climbed 4% from the previous week to a 5.0. Col TriStar’s “Mad About You,” in its sophomore year of rerun rotation, inched up 3% from the previous week to a 3.0, which marks a 29% dropoff from this time last year.