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`Friends’ still strong despite multiple runs

Oct 22, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Defying conventional wisdom, the off-network run of Warner Bros.’ “Friends” continues to garner stronger ratings returns despite its getting four telecasts a day between plays of the sitcom in broadcast syndication and on cable Superstation TBS.
Most off-network sitcoms can suffer from overexposure deeper into syndication life spans, but “Friends”’ ratings have actually grown in broadcast syndication in the two weeks since AOL Time Warner-owned TBS launched double-run plays on cable. Even more notable is how “Friends” has maintained more than 90 percent retention of its ratings since first launching in broadcast syndication in fall 1998.
For the weeks of Oct. 1 and 8, double-run exposures of “Friends” grew at a 2 percent clip, with 4.5 rating/8 share and 4.6/8 averages in households in Nielsen Media Research’s 53 metered markets. During the same two weeks, TBS’s double runs on cable-at 6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. (ET)-drew a 1.2 rating average in metered households.
In particular, the latest TV station returns signaled that “Friends” has maintained about 92 percent of its ratings compared with a 4.9/9 weekly average for the same year-ago span (Oct. 2 to 13, 2000).
“It really is a myth that cable cannibalizes from broadcast, because if anything, it increases viewer awareness for off-net shows,” said Dick Robertson, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “We have done years of research on the impact of simultaneous runs [on broadcast and cable], and it has had absolutely no negative effect on our shows. We did it with `Family Matters,’ `Full House’ and `Fresh Prince [of Bel Air],’ and there was no appreciable decreases to their broadcast [rating] numbers.”
For the first four weeks of this season compared with its off-network launch four years ago over the same span, “Friends”’ current 4.5/8 household overnight average is retaining 96 percent of its debut ratings (4.8/9). Returns this season look even better nationally, where “Friends” has been posting a 5.2 rating (aggregate average), according to the Nielsen Syndication Service Pocketpiece (Sept. 17 to 30).