Syndie ratings run

'Short,' 'Leeza' are off to respectable start

Any way you spin it, it gets tougher to make a mark in syndication these days. Seven programs bowed to audiences this week and, judging from the numbers put up after only a single day, not one bowed to a boffo aud, but several were able to fill the needs of their stations.

In firstrun syndication, four shows made premieres, including the highly promoted “The Martin Short Show” from King World.

Of the three debuting syndicated talkshows (including new-to-syndication “Leeza”), “Short” started off with modest numbers, but still better than the rest of the genre ratings-wise with a 2.4 rating and 8 share.

“Short” bowed with a lot of firepower, offering favorable reviews and Billy Crystal as opening guest. Still, “Short’s” average was down 17% from its lead-in and was also down 11% from its year-ago time period.

In New York, “Short” replaced “Judge Judy” on WCBS, while Par’s “Judy” jumped over to WNBC in the same timeslot. Preliminary results show the move was not favorable for WCBS, as the red-hot “Judy” in Gotham pulled an 8.1 rating and 21 share, a 108% increase for the NBC affiliate, while “Martin Short” landed a 2.6 rating and 7 share, down 42% from the timeslot the previous year. Still, the talker improved on its lead-in that day while beating “Forgive or Forget.”

In L.A. on KCOP, the show improved on its news lead-in by drawing a 1.8 rating and 5 share.

‘Leeza’ strong

Paramount’s “Leeza” was the only new syndicated program that showed improvement on year-ago averages, pulling a 1.7 and 6 share in its syndie debut and up 7% from its September ’98 time period averages.

After five years as a network program, the show’s syndie bow held 100% of its lead-in and improved 39% against the show’s combined network average for last season’s sweeps periods. Still, “Leeza” was able to beat out only three other talkers for the day: “Roseanne,” “Forgive or Forget” and “The Dr. Joy Browne Show.”

The topical program performed particularly well on KCOP, where it pulled an 88% increase in audiences for the UPN affil, drawing 3.2 and 10 share. “A more compatible programming environment and a deeper promotion commitment are two factors for the instant success of ‘Leeza’ on UPN-13,” said the station’s general manager, David Woodcock.

Speed bumps

The transition of Joy Browne from radio to TV is on a bumpy road. The Eyemark show premiered with a 1.5 rating and 5 share Monday, making it the lowest-rated topical talk premiere this season. Overall, the show is down 29% from lead-in and off 17% from last year’s averages.

With a majority of clearances on CBS affiliates, including the top four markets, the show was strongest in Miami, where it drew a 4.9/14.

The only newsmag to make a bow this year is MGM’s “National Enquirer TV,” which delivered a 2.2 rating and 6 share for its first day on the air, down 11% from both lead-in and year-ago averages.

The Mike Walker-hosted show pulled well in the south, where carriers in Houston, Memphis and St. Louis all received ratings over 4.

Warner Bros.’ “The Drew Carey Show” had long been thought of as the top new entry in the syndie wars, but was only able to draw a 3.2/6 for the night, losing to Carsey-Werner’s “3rd Rock From the Sun,” which landed a 3.4/7 share for its debut.

“Carey” was down 18% from its lead-in and off 20% from year-ago time periods, while “3rd Rock” was off 15% in the two categories. These numbers are off from last year’s debut of “Friends” in the off-net circuit that drew a 5.8/10 overall.

The other off-net series to air was Buena Vista’s “Unhappily Ever After,” which pulled a 1.6/5, down 16% from last year’s lead-in. But considering the program averaged a 2 while on the WB, the ratings were expected.

Day one ratings can mean everything or nothing, depending on whether viewers are able to find their programs. For every low premiere of “Howie Mandel” that results in cancellation by the end of the year, there’s a “Judge Judy” that started at a 1.5/5 only to become the third highest-rated syndie program a couple years later.