Stations Look for Sparks In Summer Syndie Tests

Judge Judy’s ‘iWitness,’ comedic game ‘Punchline’ start their runs

Why This Matters

Summer tests are increasingly the way studios and station groups are determining what shows they will pick up and take national.

Related: ‘Dough Ray Me’ Contest Ready Made for ‘Harry’

The first round of summer syndication tests have come to a close, and round two — starting July 10 and featuring iWitness from Judge Judy Sheindlin and the comedic game show Punchline — is now underway.

Round one commenced June 5 and included two locally produced Fox shows: The Jason Show, which originates from KMSP Minneapolis and stars Jason Matheson; and The Q Show, which launched last September on WXTF Philadelphia and stars Quincy Harris. Neither delivered huge ratings, although The Q Show might be an option for the Fox-owned stations to turn to if they need to fill a hole in late night or other dayparts in certain markets.

The Jason Show averaged a 0.2/1 over its four-week run, which ended June 30, down 33% from its lead-in and even with year-ago time periods with a 0.1/1 in the key demographic of women 25-54. The show did best in home market KMSP Minneapolis at 10 a.m., where it turned in a 1.2/6, down 25% from its lead-in, but up 20% from its year-ago time period average, which was also The Jason Show.

While The Jason Show is unlikely to be further tested or expanded outside of its home market, a 20% year-to-year gain is a nice jump for KMSP.

The Q Show finished its four-week run at a 0.6/2, down 33% from its lead-in and down 25% from last year. Among women 25-54, the show averaged a 0.4/3.

The Q Show did best on WAGA Atlanta at midnight, where it averaged a 1.6/4, down 30% from its lead-in and down 20% from last summer’s reruns of TMZ. That’s a market and a time slot where The Q Show might return.

Still Watching What Happens

Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen is right in the middle of its syndication test run, and it also isn’t serving up spectacular numbers. After two weeks of a four-week test, the show delivered a 0.5/1 share weighted metered market in 31 markets on Fox and Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned stations, down 38% from its lead-in and off 29% from last year at this time. Among women 25-54, WWHL averaged a 0.3/1.

The Andy Cohen vehicle did best on KTVI St. Louis, Mo., at noon, where it clocked a 1.2/4. However, that was down 52% from its 2.5/8 lead-in and down 40% from what Warner Bros.’ TMZ did in the time slot a year ago.

Cohen has not indicated that he’s looking to do a daytime talk show, but an original show in which he stars — as opposed to a rerun of his Bravo late-night show — remains something in which station programming chiefs seem interested.

On July 10, day one of a six-week trial for Sheindlin’s iWitness, hosted by comedian John Henson (see The Five Spot, page 46), registered a 1.0/2 in seven markets with a double run on WWOR New York at 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. That was down 29% from its lead-in and down 9% from its year-ago time period averages. Among women 25-54, iWitness reported a 0.6/2.

Over its first two days, iWitness held nearly 90% of its Family Feud lead-in among households in New York, and even beat its Feud lead-in among women 25-54. That performance, if it holds up or grows over the six weeks, could be enough to give iWitness a national run come 2018.

The highest-rated market for iWitness was Detroit, where it aired at midnight on WJBK and averaged a 2.0/6. That was off 17% from its lead-in and down 5% from what Twentieth’s Dish Nation did in the time slot last July.

iWitness features off-the-street contestants watching pieces of video and then answering questions about their recall of that video. Debmar-Mercury and FremantleMedia North America are co-producing the show. All of the episodes in its six-week run have already been produced.

“We spent real money to co-produce this show with Fremantle, and it looks great,” said Ira Bernstein, co-president, Debmar-Mercury. “We produce them like they are already national shows.”

Also bowing on July 10 was a four-week trial of a new comedic game show, Punchline. It opened with a 0.3/1 across nine markets, down 57% from its lead-in and down 40% from its year-ago time period averages, with a 0.2/1 in the key demo.

Punchline features two teams of three comedians who riff on a clip, a picture or something from the day’s news. A live audience then decides which team’s riffs are funnier, and there’s no laugh track so if a team fails, they fail in awkward silence or amid audience groans.

Later this summer, Fox will test two more shows: Culinary Genius, which comes from Gordon Ramsay and will be broadcast later on the U.K.’s ITV, and a court show starring Latina judge Ana Polo. Both of those shows will air Aug. 7-25.

Finally, Sinclair Broadcast Group is trying out two of its own tests this summer. Sinclair joined Fox in sampling Watch What Happens Live, and in August it will offer Snap Decision, hosted by David Alan Grier. Snap Decision, which is being produced by Michael Eisner’s Tornante, will kick off its run on Aug. 7 and will air concurrently on GSN.