20 years old and still growing - Broadcasting & Cable

20 years old and still growing

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Conventional wisdom says, the longer a show is on the air, the less desirable it ultimately becomes. But after 20 years, with 1,000 episodes under its belt, Entertainment Tonight's weekend edition is still fattening its audience base.

ET Weekend
posted an average weighted metered-market 4.8 rating/10 share during last month's sweeps period, a 9% jump from November 1999, according to Nielsen Media Research. Paramount's showbiz series has also expanded well past its competitors, placing a clear first among syndicated weekly hours.

Far behind ET Weekend, by 66%, is Xena: Warrior Princess
(2.9/6, down 6% from the same time last year). Following Xena
are Stargate SG-1
(2.9/6, flat); ER
(2.8/7, flat); and Andromeda
(2.8/5, down 3%). One of the few syndicated efforts to show growth last month, ET Weekend
is doing better than such syndicated stalwarts as Oprah
(6.1/15, down 9%) and Judge Judy
(5.1/11, down 7%).

"I think it's hard for people to accept the fact that, as ET Weekend
has gotten older, its ratings have gone up. It's unusual," says Frank Kelly, co-president of Paramount Domestic Television Distribution, who can also point to an upswing in ET's daily version (6.8/11, up 6%), also in its 20th season.

Kelly attributes ET Weekend's viewer surge to the show's recent switch to a Hollywood-nostalgia format, which is completely different from the strip edition's late-breaking entertainment-news focus. Up until last year, viewers weren't watching ET
on Saturday and Sundays because "it suffered from the perception that it was just like the Monday through Friday show," Kelly explains.

Now ET Weekend, hosted by Julie Moran, Mark Steines and Jann Carl, crafts such segments as November's "Whatever Happened To.," "TV's Biggest Scandals" and "Famous Hollywood Firings."

Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of both ET Weekend
and ET,
thanks November's never-ending election for driving viewers to ET Weekend: "People were inundated with information about the election, and this was an escapist place to turn."

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