'Geraldo’ Pounds the Pavement
Hitting the road spells higher ratings
By Ben Gross -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/12/2006 7:00:00 PM
Twentieth Television executives are focusing on boosting ratings for Geraldo at Large. Following the old-school television strategy of going local, Twentieth has taken the show on the road, shooting episodes in different markets and touting Rivera to local media.
“Just like when you are selling records, if you make local appearances, you sell more,” says Twentieth TV President Bob Cook.
Twentieth, also tasked with prepping My Network TV for launch, began the Geraldo strategy during February sweeps, with Rivera hosting shows from Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Tampa, Fla. In each city, two shows were shot—one that ran nationally and another that ran locally—and all provided extended local coverage. The national version on Feb. 10 was shot at the Mall of America and featured a story on Minneapolis soccer moms hooked on crystal meth, while the local show offered extended coverage of the story and an interview with the Minneapolis mayor.
Twentieth claims the markets were chosen for editorial purposes, not to specifically boost ratings in those markets. But the numbers in all three have jumped since the visits. The show’s average household rating in Minneapolis went from a 1.9 the week before Rivera popped in to a 2.4 the week of Feb. 27. Ratings in Philadelphia (2.3 to 2.7) and Tampa (3.2 to 3.9) increased, too.
But Twentieth knows it can’t hit every single market, so it will continue to tweak Geraldo’s format. And internal research shows viewers want to see Rivera more involved in stories and spending less time behind a desk. “The more we can get him showing up on scene, shoving a microphone in someone’s face, and then giving his commentary, that plays,” says Cook. “I don’t think we’ve done that as well as we might have.”
While the show has trended up slightly from its October 2005 premiere week (from a 2.2 rating to a 2.5 the week of Feb. 27) and is above the 2.3 A Current Affair was doing when Geraldo replaced it, Cook sees room for improvement: “I’d like the numbers to be better, but it is growing enough where we are encouraged.”
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