Still Rockin' in Wisconsin
With help from FX, That '70s Show posts sky-high numbers
By Jim Benson -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/19/2006 7:00:00 PM
No joke—the most dramatic year-to-year ratings increase in syndication belongs to a comedy. Carsey-Werner's off-network That '70s Show, being sold for its second cycle after four seasons in broadcast syndication, has soared 25% season-to-date. Not only did it rise to an average 4.0 from a 3.2 in the same months in 2004-05, but it jumped 30% in February sweeps to a 4.3, according to Nielsen.
That is in contrast to the other aging top-10 off-network sitcoms, which were down 7%-34% February-to-February. Yet the top three—Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld and Friends—still posted in the high-5 to low-7 range in household ratings in February.
Carsey-Werner Distribution President Jim Kraus attributes the '70s windfall to the show's addition to the FX lineup last September. The cable network double-runs '70s weekdays, airing it at 7 or 7:30 p.m. and then in the 11 p.m.-1 a.m. window.
“Its broadcast run is flat,” says Kraus. “The addition of FX has added 1.3-1.4 rating points to it in any given week.” He adds that the broadcast market has responded well to second-cycle sales of '70s. The distributor has cleared it in 201 markets covering 94% of the U.S.; it airs primarily in access and early-fringe time periods, the balance in late night.
Top off-network sitcoms, all of which have major cable components, typically see a ratings spike in the year that their broadcast exclusivity ends. While '70s was the most dramatic, nationally syndicated barter shows in general have climbed 8% to 2.7 in households, from 2.5 in the same period last year. In contrast, network prime time is up only 2%, from 5.7 to 5.8, while cable prime is even at 0.5.
But that could change as Nielsen's new live-plus-same-day and live-plus-seven time-shifted ratings samples rise, along with those of local-people-meter homes. Some in the industry feel that, as Nielsen adds more DVR households to the sample and as DVR penetration continues to increase, ratings will experience a substantial shakeup.
Mags feel Olympic crunch
While syndication has seen a slight bump in the season-to-date standings, it was a different story in February sweeps. A combination of preemptions and Olympics competition was a huge disruption for magazine shows. Paramount's Entertainment Tonight earned its 62nd straight sweeps win among mags with a 5.5 rating Feb. 2-March 1. It dropped 4% from February '05. King World's Inside Edition slipped 3% to a 3.7, while Paramount's The Insider gained 3% to a 3.0. NBC Universal's Access Hollywood held up amidst its massive NBC preemptions, decreasing 7% to a 2.5.
Also faced with major preemptions, Warner Bros.' Extra factored out the two-plus Olympics weeks, when it lost more than 10% of its national coverage (the minimum for taking an exemption). It thus rose 4% to a 2.4 during sweeps.
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