‘Divorce’ courts strong numbers in fall debut

Syndie show overrules 'Judge' skeins

The fall 1999-2000 syndication season officially kicked off Monday with the debut of “Divorce Court,” one of the syndie market’s more anticipated shows. With a 2.1 rating and 7 share on its first day in metered markets, the premiere of the Twentieth Television show proved that the public is still hungry for courtroom drama.

Using the two most common benchmarks in determining the success of a series — performance vs. lead-in and time period from last season — the Mablean Ephraim-hosted program is showing positive signs for the future. “Divorce Court” was up from its lead-in average by 10%, and built on its time period average from May sweeps by 16%.

Southern sizzle

The show was particularly strong in the South, where it opened in the 11:30 a.m. slot with an 8.4 rating and a 27 share, making it the highest-rated syndicated show in that region.

Compared with metered market debuts of other courtshows, “Divorce Court” drew higher ratings than Worldvision’s “Judge Judy” (1.4/5) and Rysher’s “Judge Mills Lane” (2.0/6). Worldvision’s “Judge Joe Brown,” however, drew a 2.3 rating in its preem last season. All three programs have since blossomed in the Nielsens.

Those three shows will begin their fall seasons on Sept. 13, which is also the start for most syndie strips, including newsmags “Entertainment Tonight,” “Extra” and “Real TV,” and talkers “Jerry Springer, “Maury,” “The Montel Williams Show,” “Ricki Lake,” “Roseanne” and “Sally Jessy Raphael.”