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Syndication Ratings: Numbers fade as summer heats up

Jul 23, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Television’s annual tradition, the summertime ratings blues, continued to play its part, with ratings for the week ending July 8 down across the board, according to Nielsen Media Research. With few bright spots, several programming staples once again received all-time lows, while others hit season lows, thanks to the Fourth of July holiday combined with Wimbledon pre-emptions on NBC stations.
However, a closer examination of the ratings reveals that despite appearances, certain genres of programming are able to weather the summertime heat, even increasing in key demographics.
Breaking down the programming categories, off-network series have held up the best in households, comparing the week’s ratings vs. May sweeps performances. Overall, off-network is off 5 percent in those comparisons, with the top five series in the genre, “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” “Frasier,” “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Drew Carey” all down. Among females 18 to 49, the genre has slipped 7 percent and it’s down 8 percent in men in the same age bracket.
Despite being able to weather the storm, two of the series reached all-time lows for the week, with “Friends” slipping 8 percent week to week with a 4.4 rating (with a 3.6 in women 18 to 49 and a 2.6 rating in men 18 to 49). Meanwhile, “Drew Carey” fell 10 percent to a 2.6 household rating.
Off-network sitcoms “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” (1.4 household rating, down 13 percent week to week) and “Cosby” (1.1, down 15 percent) hit new season lows.
Despite slipping in households, both the reality and court show genres were able to add female viewers vs. the May book as reality, led by “Cops” with a three-tenths of a point spurt, drew 10 percent more viewers in the 18 to 49 age bracket. “Cops” rose from a 1.2 to a 1.5 during the holiday week, even managing to tie its score in both households and males in the demo.
In households, the reality genre is down 10 percent for the week and was flat among men 18 to 49. Court shows have been able to produce key female viewers, and women 18 to 49 increased 8 percent compared with the May numbers, despite season household lows for “Judge Judy” (4.7, down 13 percent for the week), “Judge Joe Brown” (3.1, down 6 percent), and “Power of Attorney (1.6, down 11 percent).
Picking up some slack were six series that outdrew the May book. They were led by “Divorce Court” with a 1.6 rating among women 18 to 49, “Judge Mathis”’ with a 1.2, “Judge Hatchett” with a 1.2 and “People’s Court” with a 1.0 rating in the demo.
The category took its biggest hit among males 18 to 49 with a 13 percent drop overall and a 10 percent drop for the category’s top five strips. In households, the genre is down 9 percent.
Reality wasn’t the only genre to hold its male viewers. Game and relationship series also held strongly in the summer heat and were led by Universal Television’s “Blind Date.” The strip gained two-tenths of a point in the demo for the stripped version of the series and three-tenths of a point for weekend runs.
Overall, game and relationship shows were down 10 percent in households and 8 percent in females 18 to 49. “Change of Heart” kept households from sinking further with a 5 percent gain week to week, blossoming two-tenths of a rating point vs. the May book.
Talk shows logged consistent drops across the board during the week, slipping 8 percent in households and 13 percent in both men and women 18 to 49. The genre averaged a 2.2 household rating, down from a 2.4 over May sweeps. The lone bright spot among households has been “Jenny Jones,” with a jump of three-tenths of a point between the two periods. Both “Ricki Lake” and “Martha Stewart Living” tied their May performances with scores of 2.3 and 1.4, respectively.
In week-to-week comparisons, no returning talk shows gained ground. Leader “The Oprah Winfrey Show” earned a 5.2 household score, down 4 percent to equal a season low. It was followed by “Jerry Springer” (3.3, down 8 percent), “Live With Regis & Kelly” (3.2, down 14 percent), “Maury” (3.1, flat) and “Montel Williams” (2.7, down 4 percent).
Newsmagazines have suffered the brunt of the summertime blues, since the combined averages of weekend and stripped versions of the genre slid 19 percent in households, 20 percent among women 18 to 49 and 9 percent among men 18 to 49. The genre continued to be led by “Entertainment Tonight” with a 4.9 score, down from a 5.7 during the sweeps, while the weekend version landed at second with a 3.2, off four-tenths of a point from May.
Among women 18 to 49, weekend runs of “Access Hollywood” and “Extra” were the only series not to lose viewers. Among men 18 to 49, “Inside Edition,” both in daily and weekend forms, became the only series not to lose viewers in the demo.