May daze for syndies

Sweeps show overall drop from last year

May was a not-so-sweet sweep for syndication.

Nielsen’s national ratings tally for the May ratings sweep released Thursday reveal the majority of syndicated shows turned in lower ratings than they did during the May 1999 sweep.

Of the top 15 strips that air in access time periods, just three –“Entertainment Tonight,” “Hollywood Squares” and “Access Hollywood” –improved over last May. Likewise, just three of the 17 veteran daytime strips — “Maury,” “Judge Joe Brown” and “Donny & Marie” — were up. All of the top-10 off-net sitcom vets were down.

Although HUT (households using television) levels are relatively steady, some erosion has occurred among young female demos, which some researchers indicate may have played a part in some of the shows’ dropoffs.

This season’s February and November sweeps also dragged in comparison with the 1999-2000 season, so syndication’s overall performance during May is not surprising, said station rep Janeen Bjork, senior veep of programming for Millennium Sales & Marketing.

“Given what’s happened up to now — and ‘Maury’ is the greatest exception to the rule — that’s what I expected,” she said.

Indeed, syndie talker “Maury” showed the most improvement May-to-May of any strip, moving up 16% over last year to a 3.6 rating.

Factors cited

Overall, syndicated TV shows have run into a number of factors that may be affecting viewership, analysts say.

Competition for eyeballs is ever-increasing as cable outlets more aggressively program daytime, and developing entertainment platforms continue to emerge.

Also, promotional efforts are often strongest during the initial launch of a season, leaving resources depleted at some studios come the May sweep.

Bjork suggests ratings erosion is often a natural matter of course.

“The natural evolution of a show is that all shows over time, with very few exceptions, decline, and many of these shows are incredibly mature — one could say overripe,” she said.

Bucking broncos

Shows that bucked the down-trend in addition to the handful mentioned include “Entertainment Tonight’s” weekend edition, which moved up 26% to 3.4, as well as weekly “Stargate SG-1,” which moved up 18% to a 3.3.

“ET” weekend and “Stargate” were the top two firstrun weekly hours, with “Stargate” marking a first-time win over stalwart actioner “Xena,” which was down 14% to 3.2.

“ER” reruns led the weekly genre overall, slipping 3% to 3.9, followed by “X-Files,” down 28% to 3.6, and “ET” weekend.

The strip “ET” moved up 7% to 5.9 to top the mags, followed by “Extra,” which was down 8% to 3.3. “Inside Edition” was third, down 10% to 2.8, “Access Hollywood” was up 4% to 2.4, and newcomer “National Enquirer Television” turned in a 1.5.

‘Oprah’ still leads

“Oprah” continued to lead the talkers, although it was down 3% to 6.4, followed by “Jerry Springer,” which was down 40% from last year’s chair-swinging days to a 3.8. “Rosie O’Donnell” was next, down 10% to 3.7, and “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” was even with last year to tie “Maury” at 3.6. The other talkers were down, with the exception of “Donny & Marie.”

“D&M” moved up 7% to 1.6, despite rough-going in New York, where the show is yet to be cleared for a third season this fall. Strip was down 33% year-to-year for the time period in New York (noon on WNYW) to a 0.8 rating/3 share. The show is down 33% from its 9 a.m. perf last May in the market.

“Judge Judy” led the gavelers, slipping 4% to 6.5, followed by “Judge Joe Brown,” up 9% to 3.7. Newcomer “Divorce Court” was next, at 2.9, followed by “People’s Court,” even at 2.4. Newcomer “Judge Mathis” turned in a 2.2, just ahead of “Judge Mills Lane,” down 26% to a 2.0.

“Divorce” led the rookies overall, followed by game revival “Family Feud” and “Mathis,” both with a 2.2.

“Profiler” reruns led the rookie weekly hours at 2.5, followed by “Back 2 Back Action” at 2.4.

“Drew Carey” at 4.0 and “3rd Rock From the Sun” at 3.3 led the rookie off-net comedies.

“Friends” was the top off-net sitcom overall, down 11% to 5.7.

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