Col Tri pulls plug on ‘Donnie & Marie’

Expense, fragmented audience spell end after two seasons

NEW ORLEANS — They were a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll and a little bit too low in the ratings.

Columbia TriStar Television Distribution prexy Barry Thurston, who ends his tenure at the distrib next month, said Thursday that syndie yakker “Donny & Marie” will not be coming back for a third season this fall, due to its ratings performance.

“We have evaluated the May books — about 70% of the ratings books are in — and seen enough demo stories we need. The show has a good station lineup, but unfortunately we are disappointed that while we did have increases in ratings this year, they did not come up sufficiently enough to make economic sense. This is not an inexpensive show,” Thurston said.

“Donny & Marie” was one of only six syndie strips to improve year-to-year among national households during the May ratings sweeps. It was up 7% to a 1.6 rating for the period, according to Nielsen.

Dip in Gotham

The show, however, took a hit in Gotham, where a firm clearance announcement has been pending. Airing at noon, skein earned a 0.8 rating/3 share in May on WNYW New York, which declined to renew the show. While Thurston said that Col had secured a station pickup for the New York market, he would not reveal which station had agreed to take on the show.

Season-to-date, “D&M” has pulled in a 1.7 national rating and a 1.0 rating among women 18-49.

“Unfortunately, the daytime audience is very fragmented today, and it’s very difficult to sustain a budget for a format like this. That’s why you’re seeing studios explore other genres,” Thurston said.

Meanwhile, CTTD has gained new clearances on its off-net run of “Just Shoot Me,” bringing coverage to 41% of the country. With the additions of WPHL Philadelphia, WATL Atlanta and WLVI Boston to the lineup, six of the top 10 markets are now on board for the 2001 rollout of the comedy.

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