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Off-Network Series Sag in November

Dec 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

With the November book finally closed, the results are in: Off-network series, quite simply, took a beating.

Strong erosion for perennial syndicated television favorites left some of America’s programming staples down by double digits.

For stations that have built themselves on the backs of these shows, the strong downtrend has been spurred by a lack of hot new series and sales of the shows on DVD, as well as cable runs of series that often compete directly with their broadcast syndication runs.

So far this season, seven of the top 10 syndicated off-net series are off by more than 10 percent, with some down as much as 27 percent in season-to-season comparisons. So far this year, according to Nielsen Media Research, the only growth to be found has come from Sony’s “King of Queens,” which was up 20 percent versus the same period in 2005 to hit the 3.0 mark, and Paramount’s “Frasier,” which grew 25 percent to a 2.0.

“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Seinfeld” and “Friends” took tumbles in the 2006 November sweeps average as the shows played their sixth, 12th and ninth seasons, respectively. The longtime off-net staples all fell 18 percent or more compared with their performances during the November 2005 book. King World’s “Everybody Loves Raymond” maintained its lead in the category, but fell 18 percent to a 5.3 sweep average. Sony’s longtime favorite “Seinfeld” dropped 20 percent during the period to a 4.5 average, while Warner Bros.’ “Friends” slid 31 percent to a 3.7 rating.

Sweeps news wasn’t kind to court shows either, with every program in the genre either moderately down or flat compared with November 2005. CBS Paramount’s genre leader “Judge Judy” pulled a 4.8 sweeps average, off 2 percent, with second place going to the studio’s “Judge Joe Brown, which slipped 6 percent to a 3.0. For the last week of the sweeps, however, “Brown” hit a season-high 3.1.

Warner Bros.’ duo of “The People’s Court” and “Judge Mathis” held the next two spots, finishing with sweeps averages of 2.8 and 2.5, respectively. “The People’s Court” was down 3 percent compared with November 2005, while “Mathis” held even.

Newsmagazines saw a surge in the final week of the sweeps, as NBC Universal’s “Access Hollywood” and Warner’s “Extra” each hit season highs. “Access” hit a 3.0 on the last week of the November book to finish the sweeps even with 2005 at a 2.7. “Extra’ earned a season-best 2.4 in the last week to pull a 2.3 sweeps average, down 4 percent in sweep-to-sweep comparisons. CBS Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” grew 2 percent for the sweeps to a 5.6, while spinoff “The Insider” was off by 10 percent to a 2.7. CBS Paramount’s “Inside Edition” was also down 8 percent to a 3.4 average.

Game shows generally came out of the sweeps besting or unchanged from 2005 numbers. King World’s “Wheel of Fortune” hit a season-high 9.2 in the last week of the book to average an 8.6. The syndicator’s fellow strip “Jeopardy!” finished the sweeps up 3 percent to a 6.8 average. Buena Vista’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” was also up, growing 6 percent to a 3.3, while Debmar’s “Family Feud” scored a 1.8, down 10 percent from 2005.

The talk show sector saw King World’s “Dr. Phil” close the gap on annual leader “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” “Dr. Phil” was the only talk show to improve on its November 2005 performance, rising 2 percent to a 5.6 average for the sweeps and marking its best November since 2003. “Oprah” was down 13 percent to a 7.1. Rookie champ “Rachael Ray” finished its first sweep with a 2.1.