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Syndication Ratings: Off-net hits eclipsing first runs

Apr 8, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Twentieth Television’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and Columbia TriStar Domestic Television’s “The Steve Harvey Show” are in the running to become the first syndicated series to outperform their network counterparts in two ratings categories.
So far this season, “Buffy” is earning a 2.6 AA household rating in its first year in syndication (with a 2.8 GAA score), besting its first year on The WB (a 2.4 rating) and closing in on its 2.7 network rating last season. This year, “Buffy” is earning a 3.0 on its new network, UPN. Only Twentieth’s fellow weekly hour “The X-Files” boasts a similar trophy, but only when using GAA ratings (6.8 vs. 6.6). However, “Buffy’s” AA rating is also outperforming its debut season in every demographic category, something “X-Files” was unable to claim. In addition, “Buffy” airings are strong performers on cable outlet FX.
“The success of these shows underscores the underlying potential for well-done shows that are programmed correctly in syndication,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at Katz Television Group. “These shows have built-in viewer awareness and are able to deliver because of this. From a station’s perspective, it’s easier to promote a series with these franchise names than it is with a new personality or an unproven name.”
“Steve Harvey’s” ratings could soon set their own precedent. Both the off-network airings of the strip and its network counterpart are averaging a 1.9 household rating this season with “Harvey” cleared in only 78 percent of the country. Should the off-network version uptick before the end of the year, the Columbia TriStar series would become the first show ever to have more viewers in off-network reruns than it does on its first-run network.
Clearly, however, dramas from The WB and UPN have played better in syndication than sitcoms. “7th Heaven” remains healthy in its off-network broadcasts, most recently earning a 2.0 household rating. That’s a positive sign for other dramas preparing for off-network syndication, such as “Gilmore Girls” and “Angel,” and for this year’s new hits “Smallville” on The WB and “Enterprise” on UPN.