In Depth

Syndicated Ratings Slump in May Sweep

With viewership levels down by an average of half a million compared with May 2006, the May ratings book closed with a dull thud for distributors.

For the sweeps period from April 26 to May 23, only one first-run strip showed year-to-year growth and only one genre managed to dodge the audience erosion that has affected the networks, according to Nielsen Media Research.

When the smoke cleared, however, CBS Television Distribution stood atop the pack, scoring nine of the top 10 programs for the sweep.

Newsmagazine strips weathered the storm the best, with none of the programs dropping more than 5 percent in year-to-year comparisons. Leading the pack was CBS' "Entertainment Tonight," the only first-run series in syndication to show growth, up 2 percent from last May to a 5.0 average. Taking second place was "Inside Edition" with a 3.4 rating, holding even from last May. NBCU's "Access Hollywood" and CBS' "The Insider" tied the sweep with a 2.5 score as "Access" held its ground from last year while "The Insider" dipped 5 percent. Warner Bros.' "Extra" finished with a 2.1 average for a drop of 5 percent.

Among gameshows, all four of the category entries were down. "Wheel of Fortune" averaged a 7.3 rating, off 6 percent; "Jeopardy" pulled a 5.8 score for a drop of 9 percent; "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" earned a 3.0 for a 6 percent tumble; and "Family Feud" scored a 1.7, down 15 percent.

Off-net series were hit the hardest; the category clearly stands to benefit from the launch of "Family Guy," "Two and a Half Men," and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" this fall. Leader "Everybody Loves Raymond" earned a 4.5 in its sixth season in the aftermarket, but it was off 18 percent year-to-year. "Seinfeld" pulled a 4.2 rating in its 12th season in syndication, down 19 percent. "Friends" earned a 3.3 rating, down 27 percent in its ninth season as an off-net strip.

Among daytime strips, most series showed double-digit declines versus May 2006. Within the talk show ranks, "Oprah" continued to lead the pack with a 6.2 average, but was down 13 percent. Only three veterans dodged the double-digit dropoffs, as "Dr. Phil" slipped 5 percent to a 5.2, "Live With Regis and Kelly" held steady at a 3.3 and "Ellen" fell 4 percent to a 2.2. Rookie "Rachael Ray" earned a 2.0 average in her first May sweep.

Court shows were in a similar position, with only three series avoiding double-digit dips. Holding up the best were "Judge Judy," off 2 percent to a 4.5; "The People's Court," with a 7 percent fall to a 2.5; and "Judge Mathis," which held even at a 2.3. Rookies "Cristina's Court" and "Judge Maria Lopez" earned a 1.4 and a 0.9, respectively.

(Editor: Horowitz)

Comments 28

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