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Syndie surprises

Less costly netlet shows earn good ratings

With much of the syndie product out of the starting gate, the surprise winners may be the stations that opted for less-pricey product.

While high-profile network shows such as “Drew Carey” and “3rd Rock” drew bidding wars when they were made available for off-net runs, it’s shows from the two netlets, the WB and UPN, that are the new darlings of station managers. So far the reruns of netlet shows have had all-round solid debuts at a fraction of the cost of what the two A-list series pulled.

Thus far Warner Bros.’ “The Wayans Bros.” (from the WB) “In the House,” (UPN) “The Parent ‘Hood” (WB) and Buena Vista’s “Unhappily Ever After” (WB) have performed surprisingly well in their off-net debuts and are holding their own in their time periods.

‘Wayans’ wins

The highest rated of these series, is “The Wayans Bros.” which earned on Monday in metered markets a 2.5 rating and 6 share, down 4% from its lead-in but up a strong 14% from year-ago numbers.

“In the House” pulled a 2.4 rating/5 share, down 11% from its lead-in and even with 1998’s numbers. “The Parent ‘Hood” landed a 2.0/5, off 9% from its lead-in but even compared to a year ago.

What pleases station managers the most is that these shows air in early fringe and late night where ratings are tougher to land.

“I call this cheap TV,” said one station manager. “The A-list shows just got too expensive. I’m glad I went in another direction.”

This compares to stronger but much more expensive runs of Carsey-Werner’s “3rd Rock From the Sun” and Warner Bros.’ “The Drew Carey Show.” Entering their second week in off-net, they pulled 3.6/7 and 3.5/6 numbers, respectively, in mostly prime access time periods.

Rocky road

NBC’s “3rd Rock” is down 8% from its lead-in and off 12% from year-ago averages and unchanged from last week’s numbers, while “Drew Carey” is off 19% from its lead-in and 17% from 1998 figures.

Still, last year it took “Friends” nearly a month before finding its audience and with “Carey” up 9% from last week’s bow, station managers are hoping for a similar trend.

Other off-net bows Monday included daily runs of Paramount’s “Star Trek Voyager” and Eyemark’s “Caroline in the City.” “Voyager” performed the better of the two with a 2.0 rating/4 share, while “Caroline” took home a 1.5/3 on its debut, off a whopping 40% from its lead-in and 32% from year-ago numbers.

On the weekly front, the off-net bow of “Profiler” from Carsey-Werner opened up with a 1.9/6 last weekend.

The only weekly first-run series to bow in syndication last week was Columbia/TriStar’s “Battledome,” earning a 1.7/4 share, a 6% improvement year-ago ratings.

Smack after

The young, male-skewing sports entertainment series, however, landed monster ratings in Chicago, Baltimore and Phoenix, where it debuted in syndication on UPN stations following the wrestling program “WWF Smackdown.”

The combined ratings in those three cities averaged a 5.8 rating and 9 share, which, according to studio sources, may cause other stations not running local news to move the program to the post-WWF timeslot on Thursday nights opposite NBC’s “ER.”

The best first-run newcomer strip thus far is the growing “Divorce Court” from Twentieth Television. After bowing three weeks ago, the court show Monday pulled a 2.5/8 in the overnight markets, up 9% from its lead-in and up a whopping 39% from last year’s time period. Since last week, the show has improved 9% in its rating numbers.

A slew of firstrun strips debuted this week, with none of them breaking the 2.0 barrier.

The highest rated of these shows, Pearson’s “Family Feud,” opened with a 1.7/5, a solid enough outing given that the program was up 13% from its lead-in and soared 21% over the year-ago timeslot performance.

Judge & queen

Telepictures’ “Judge Mathis” also opened with a 1.7/5, finishing even with its lead-in but down 11% from 1998. Telepictures’ other offering, “Queen Latifah,” performed modestly, earning a 1.6/5.

Two other strips debuted on Monday — Tribune’s “Richard Simmons’ Dream Maker” and Universal/Gold Coast’s “Blind Date.”

“Date” opened as the better of the two offbeat series, earning a 1.6 rating and 4 share. Although the newcomer is down 24% from its lead-in and 6% from last year’s average, the behind-the-scenes dating show skewed well with a younger crowd.

“Simmons” opened up with a rough 1.4/5, off 33% from its lead-in and down 18% from the 1998 timeperiod average.