Reruns still dominating syndication

No sensations among TV rookies

Reruns are trumping originals during the first few weeks of the new season in TV syndication.

Warner Bros.’ “Two and a Half Men” and Twentieth TV’s “Family Guy” have come out of the gate with some solid numbers, whereas all the firstrun rookie series are struggling to find a mass audience.

But it’s too early to pronounce the new season for originals a hopeless failure because colder weather and the switch to daylight saving time early in November invariably keep more people home, perched in front of their TV sets.

“Two and a Half Men,” still a bellwether of CBS’ Monday primetime schedule, is averaging a 3.4 national household rating season to date. In the markets metered by Nielsen, the sitcom is up by 17% from both its lead-in and its year-ago numbers.

“Family Guy,” which continues to rack up broadcast-and-cable viewers on the Fox network, Adult Swim and TBS, is harvesting a 3.6 national rating in syndication. In metered markets, “Guy” is even with its lead-in and up 5% from September 2006.

The highest-rated of the original five-a-week series, Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution’s “TMZ” half-hour celeb magazine, is scoring a 1.7 national rating. But the story in the metered markets is double-digit declines in lead-in (20%) and in year-ago (27%).

NBC Universal Domestic’s “Steve Wilkos Show,” a yakker featuring tough-love solutions, averages only a 0.9 rating. The meters show it even with its lead-in but down by 9% from a year ago.

Sony Pictures TV’s openly gay “Judge David Young” is managing a 0.8 rating. In metered households, it’s down 11% from both its lead-in and year-ago.

Double-digit falloffs are also plaguing the two gameshows that began in syndication last month. “Merv Griffin’s Crosswords,” from Program Partners, is averaging a 0.8 national rating, plunging in the meters by 20% from its lead-in and by 27% from year-ago.

Twentieth TV’s “Temptation,” an update of “The Sale of the Century,” has a 0.5 national rating, and it’s off even more than Griffin in the meters, down by 29% from lead-in and by 38% from year-ago.

The last of the new 2007-08 strips, “Jury Duty,” from the recently formed indie distributor Radar Entertainment, has not made a dent in the syndie landscape, averaging only a 0.2 national rating. It’s down in the meters by 25% from lead-in and by 50% from year-ago.

Another sitcom rerun making its syndie debut last month, Warner Bros.’ “The George Lopez Show,” chalked up a 2.2 national rating, putting it even with year-ago in the meters. But the show was down by 9% from its lead-in.

Reruns of NBC Universal’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” started last month in five-a-week syndication with a 1.3 national rating. According to the meters, the series fell off by 20% from lead-in and by 11% from year-ago.

Its “Law & Order: SVU” sibling began in weekend syndication last month with a 2.2 national rating, even with a year ago but down by 13% from lead-in.

If most of these numbers don’t start improving by the end of November, particularly among rookie firstrun series, TV stations may flock to some of the syndicated shows being pitched for the 2008-09 season.

Already a go for next September is the Warner Bros.-produced talkshow hosted by Bonnie Hunt and a half-hour syndie version of “Deal or No Deal” from NBC Universal.

CBS TV Distribution is readying a spinoff of “Dr. Phil” that would feature not one but a panel of doctors who’d co-host the series after learning from the master by making separate appearances on “Dr. Phil” during the next two or three months.

Warner Bros. has a court show presided over by Jeanine Pirro, a former New York prosecutor, in the works, and syndication versions of the broadcast-network gameshows “The Power of 10,” from Sony Pictures TV, and “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” from Twentieth TV, are also a distinct possibility.

What’s certain is that distributors will continue to keep new series flowing into the syndie pipeline, eager to mop up their share of $2 billion-plus that advertisers will funnel into TV syndication next season.