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Solid Start for Syndie Shows

Sep 14, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Early returns for the fresh slate of syndication programming gave industry executives cause for some optimism in a market that’s becoming more difficult for freshman shows.
Filling in time periods that punished their predecessors and fighting to create audience awareness, shows like “The Doctors,” the daytime incarnation of “Deal or No Deal” and “The Bonnie Hunt Show” put in solid performances.
Initial ratings show slight falloffs among even the leading new programs. While only four days of data were in at press time, and it usually takes a few weeks to evaluate a new syndicated show’s potential, new demographic ratings data is giving distributors and station groups more ways to meter success more quickly.
“Both stations and syndicators are looking for programs that are able to improve performance in their particular time periods, and so far, all the series this year are looking to be decent performers,” said Bill Carroll, VP/director of programming at Katz Media. “This year with the inclusion of demographic stories in the LPM (local people meter) markets, even though in most cases you are not looking at huge household numbers, you are looking at credible demographic performance, particularly with the two talk shows.”
With nearly a week under their belt, no new first-run series that debuted last week can claim to be an outright hit. However, all of them have positive stories to tell, as well as areas of concern to address.
The Doctors
The CBS Television Distribution series averaged a 1.4 rating/4 share in the first four days on the air in the overnight metered markets. That compares to an average lead-in of 1.7/5 and a year-ago time period average of 1.8/5.
What’s working: The medical-themed talk show debuted in syndication as the highest-rated series of the new class. In addition, the series was rated No. 1 in its time period in three of the top 18 markets: Atlanta, Phoenix and Denver. It also has been ranked first or second in 14 of the 54 metered markets in which it airs.
Cause for concern: After debuting with a 1.5 rating, the series has seen a mild day-to-day drop, earning a 1.3 score on Thursday. In addition, the series, spun off from “Dr. Phil,” experienced the largest year-to-year decline of any of the new syndicated Monday-to-Friday shows, declining 22%. In addition, the strip is in a tough time slot in New York, scoring under a 1 rating there.
Deal or No Deal
The daytime version of the prime-time hit NBC game show averaged a 1.2/3 during its first four days. The average lead-in for the series was a 1.4/3; last year, the show’s time periods averaged a 1.3/3.
What’s working: “‘‘Deal or No Deal’ is off to a strong start, improving station time periods all across the country, including all top four markets, by more than 50%,” said Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. “Through its first week, ‘’Deal’ continues to retain nearly all of its lead-in audience, and it’s the only new show building on the quarter-hour, a key benchmark of success in syndication.”
The series is particularly popular in Los Angeles, where on Thursday it earned a 1.1/3, more than doubling its lead in. On the eight NBC-owned stations where it airs, “Deal” is up both in households and among women 25-54.
Cause for concern: The game show is facing some trouble connecting in more difficult time periods and showed a three-day downtrend before spiking on Thursday. Many analysts thought the series would debut higher, given the general awareness of the prime-time version of the show and the drawing power of host Howie Mandel.
The Bonnie Hunt Show
The Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution series is averaging a 1.0/3. Those numbers stack up against a 1.4/5 lead-in, while year-ago numbers for the time slots averaged a 1.1/4.
What’s working: “‘Bonnie’ is exactly where we thought it would be,” said Ken Werner, president of the distributor. “We are very pleased with the start and we look forward to it growing as the season progresses. Everything we’ve heard from stations and audiences encourages us.”
Demographics in particular have played in “Bonnie’s” favor. The show is retaining 100% of its lead-in among women 18-49 and matching time-period performance on those stations in the demographic with a 0.4/3. Among the key category of women 25-54, “Bonnie” is earning a 0.5/3 to match its lead-in numbers. It has improved its rating versus the time periods in September 2007.
Cause for concern: Of all the new series to debut, “Bonnie” is off the most in retaining its lead-in among households, dropping 29%. In addition, the series average has not cracked a 1.0 in any of the top three markets.
Judge Karen
The Sony Pictures Television-distributed series posted a four-day average of a 0.9/3, tying its lead-in average. Year-ago ratings were a 1.0/3.
What’s working: The court show seems to be holding its own, particularly when placed within court-show blocks. “Judge Karen” is one of the few new series to hold its lead-in and it’s off only a tenth of a point versus a year ago. In Chicago, the country’s No. 3 market, the strip earned a 2.1/8 on WCIU-TV, up 24% from both lead-in and year-ago numbers.
Cause for concern: The series is having difficulty in Los Angeles, the country’s No. 2 market. On KDOC-TV at 5 p.m., “Judge Karen” is averaging a 0.1 rating and a 0 share. If the series is going to build, it will have to improve its showing in the area. Difficult time periods in other markets also may challenge growth.
Family Court With Judge Penny
Program Partners debuted the 44 Blue-produced show to a 0.8/3, on par with its lead-in and year-ago numbers.
What’s working: “Family Court” is the only new series to retain both its lead-in and year-ago scores, marking what some analysts believe to be the most pleasant surprise of the new season. In addition, the series builds on its lead-in among women 25-54 in each of the top six markets.
Cause for concern: The show’s primary weakness is its lack of a strong lead-in on a slew of stations. Many of those slots pull a hashmark. In addition, the series is not sold in as many markets as other strips to debut this year.

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