‘Martha’ Leads Freshman Pack

Sep 19, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The debut last week of “Martha,” the freshman syndicated strip marking Martha Stewart’s return to television following a prison term, led the ratings game among the four new strips to premiere this season.

The show, distributed by NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution, also garnered the most initial hope in the industry for long-term viability as it posted double-digit percentage ratings increases when held up to two benchmarks of success: It improved on its current lead-in and the year-ago time period performance.

By those two measures, no other newcomers fared quite so well. Ratings for “The Tyra Banks Show” was down by double digits in those measures in household ratings, however, distributor Warner Bros. was encouraged by the show’s core demo performances. Twentieth Television’s new court show “Judge Alex” showed consistency, staying even with its lead-in, steady through the week and improving the time period performance compared with a year ago. Atlas’ weekly-turned-strip “Eye for an Eye” was down from its lead-in and year-ago averages and edged down over the week.

“Martha” turned in a 2.2 household rating and 7 share weighted meter market average for its first four days of primary runs, according to Nielsen Media Research. That was up 29 percent from its year-ago time period average of 1.7/6, and a 10 percent increase over its lead-in of 2.0/7.

“Martha” did show a decline over the four days, with a 2.4/8 household average on Monday and a 2.1/7 on Thursday, but grew its time periods’ women 25 to 54 demo from last year. In the seven Local People Meter markets, “Martha” was up 38 percent over last year’s time period average in women 25 to 54, improving from a 0.8/5 to a 1.1/8.

“The numbers are right where we’d thought they’d be,” said Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. “The good news is we’re the No. 1 show of the year. The bad news is look at what we’re compared to, and there is not much to compare to.”

Within the current syndication marketplace, where shows that hit a 1 household rating get renewed for another season, “Martha” is an early performer, said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Television Group.

“The numbers are consistent, there are solid stories in most markets and in a number of situations on any given day she’s No.1 in the time period,” Mr. Carroll said. “You can’t expect considerably more than that. If they can maintain this level or grow it slightly, they have a franchise that can run forever.”

An additional show starring Ms. Stewart, NBC’s prime-time reality series “The Apprentice: Martha Stewart,” kicks off Wednesday at 8 p.m.

Warner Bros.’ “The Tyra Banks Show” scored a 1.3/4 household rating and share for its first four days, down 24 percent from its lead-in of 1.7/5 and down 19 percent from its year-ago time period average of 1.6. “Tyra” started with a 1.3/4 on Monday and dropped slightly before swinging back up to a 1.4/4 on Thursday.

“We seem to be hitting the target of the show, women 18 to 34,” said Jim Paratore, executive VP of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “This was never sold as a household show. As long as we continue to grow [that demo], we will be in good shape.”

In LPM markets, “Tyra” was up from its women 18 to 34 year-ago time period average of 0.4/3 to a 0.9/6. In women 18 to 49, the show grew from a 0.4/2 to a 0.7/4.

“It’s too soon to be able to make a final judgment, but even by the most generous calculations it is not a breakout in households, and it is still to be seen if it reaches the demographic they are targeting,” Mr. Carroll said.

Twentieth Television’s “Judge Alex” had a four-day household rating of 1.8/5 in its primary runs, even with its 1.8/6 lead-in and up 13 percent from its year-ago time period average of 1.6/5. “Alex” remained even from Monday (1.8/5) to Thursday (1.8/6).

“We’re seeing uptrends in many of the overnight markets as well as strong positioning against established competition,” said Bob Cook, president and chief operating officer of Twentieth Television.

Besides being scheduled within established court show blocks, “Alex” is working creatively, Mr. Carroll said.

“He comes off having a sense of humor and a certain sense of authority,” he said. “They’ve done a good job picking early cases that let him display what makes him unique.”

Atlas’ weekly-turned-strip “Eye for an Eye” scored a 0.6/2 four-day average, down 14 percent from its 0.7/2 lead-in and down 25 percent from its 0.8/3 year-ago time period average. The show dropped from its Monday number of 0.6/2 to a 0.5/2 on Thursday.

“Eye,” which Mr. Carroll described as “basically a comedy show” rather than a straightforward courtroom series, is doing slightly under time period.

“To be fair to them, they are on a challenging lineup of stations,” he said.

Among the premiering off-network series, Twentieth’s “Bernie Mac” scored a 1.7/3 in its first four days, dropping 15 percent from its lead-in and down 23 percent from its 2.2/4 year-ago time period average. “Bernie” grew from a 1.7/3 on Monday to a 1.8/4 on Thursday.

Buena Vista’s “My Wife and Kids” scored a 1.5/3, even with its lead-in but down 12 percent from a 1.7/4 from its year-ago performance. “Kids” was even for all four days with a 1.5/3.