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‘Fear’ of Reality in Syndication

Sep 27, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Ratings for the first four days of “Fear Factor’s” debut in broadcast syndication were down compared with year-ago time-period averages and with the show’s lead-in, leaving unanswered the question of whether or not reality programs from the networks have a place in syndication.

NBC Universal’s “Fear Factor,” which runs on NBC in prime time and has an off-network run on cable network FX, scored a 1.2/3 four-day weighted meter market average last week, according to Nielsen Media Research. That was down 20 percent from its year-ago time period average of 1.5/3, and down 14 percent from its lead-in (1.4/3).

The show was mixed in local markets. For example, in New York on WWOR-TV at 4 p.m. (ET), “Fear Factor” had a four-day average of 0.8/2, down 50 percent from its year-ago time period average but even with its lead-in. Its encore midnight run in New York scored a 0.9/3, also down 50 percent from its year-ago average and even with its lead-in. In Los Angeles, however, on KCOP-TV at 5 p.m. (PT), the show was up 9 percent from a year ago with a 1.2/3. That was a 7 percent increase over its lead-in. At 11:30 p.m. “Fear Factor” scored a 0.9/3, up 29 percent from a year ago but down 10 percent from its lead-in.

“There’s a lot of new stuff being previewed,” said David Goldberg, president of Endemol USA of syndicated viewing and “Fear Factor’s” initial performance. “It’s going to take until October or November to get a sense of how the show is doing. Once a lot of the sampling of new programming is over, I remain hopeful that number will come up. It had a really strong showing on FX in a off-net position, and I see no reason why the off-net numbers in syndication won’t follow suit.”

“So far the numbers are OK but not great,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at Katz Television Group. “If you look at how it does in prime time and how it appears to be doing in cable, it certainly hasn’t had that kind of breakout in the broadcast plays. If anyone is looking at this as an indicator as a new category that is going to open up for syndication, it doesn’t appear to be that.”

NBC Universal’s Sean O’Boyle, senior VP and national sales manager, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, said he wasn’t fearful of oversaturation. “If you look at shows like `Friends,’ `Law & Order,’ they have multiple platforms. We feel `Fear Factor’ is one of those shows as well. We’re not worried it will hinder its ratings.”

Mr. O’Boyle also said NBC Universal is making changes to “The Jane Pauley Show” in an effort to strengthen its ratings. For the week ending Sept. 12 “Jane Pauley” dropped to a 1.3 national household rating, down 19 percent from its premiere week average of 1.3, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“We need to improve the topic selection,” he said. “When Jane is doing topical, compelling stories and sitting down with big-name celebrities she is at her best. We are endeavoring to do more of those kinds of shows.”