As Cold of November Rushes In, Shows Get Hotter

Sweeps month is still vital for stations making decisions, and series plan accordingly
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Much is made of syndication’s September premieres, but November is when syndication watchers really start paying attention. The days grow dark and cold, people stay inside and ratings start hitting their true strides.

That trend was already starting to ring true as October came to an end. In the week ended Oct. 23, and in the face of several preemptions for World Series baseball games, many syndicated programs still showed week-to-week growth. That trajectory should continue through November, when producers pull out all the stops to program and promote their shows.

“We take sweeps very seriously, and we tend to put our bigger events and stunts inside the November book,” says Mindy Borman, Dr. Oz executive producer.

“I approach every sweeps period as if it is the most important month of the year,” says Carla Pennington, Dr. Phil executive producer. “I do save shows that I think are spectacular for November sweeps.”

While many say sweeps periods are less relevant in these days of local people meters that deliver nearly instantaneous ratings, TV station groups still rely on November numbers to start making decisions. That’s particularly important now, with syndicators trying to secure the last remaining slots so they can close deals for new shows.

“To the stations, the November book matters very much,” says Borman. “But it’s also true that you can’t just perform well inside the book and do well. It feels like we’ve been in launch phase for three years, and there are lots of opportunities outside the book to hit big numbers.”

Still, Warner Bros. and Debmar-Mercury will be watching November ratings carefully to gauge the performances of their respective rookie talkers, Anderson and Jeremy Kyle, while CBS Television Distribution and Sony each hope their talkers—Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz— emerge at the top of the genre.

This year’s November sweeps is already underway, having started Oct. 27 and continuing through Nov. 23, concluding just before the slow Thanksgiving holiday.

Most shows will continue doing what they do best, but with the volume amped up.

Dr. Phil
launched its 10th season in September to the show’s biggest ratings in four years, with an exclusive three-part interview with the parents of the acquitted Casey Anthony. Phil’s ratings have since fallen back to earth a bit, averaging a 2.8 live plus same day household number, but that’s enough to keep the show in the talk lead, except in the occasional week when Oz manages to top or tie it.

Phil hopes to reap more ratings from the Anthony story, hosting both prosecuting attorney Jeff Anthony and jury foreman David Angelo on Nov. 15. Angelo spoke to news programs in the wake of the trial, but this is the first time he will reveal his face to audiences.

“Shows based on news stories seem to be really working for us,” says Pennington, mentioning an upcoming episode in which Dr. Phil McGraw will talk to the family of a woman found hanging naked off her boyfriend’s balcony in San Diego. Her death was ruled a suicide, but questions remain. “Phil has the legal background, plus he’s able to handle the emotional side of any headline story,” Pennington says.

Dr. Phil
is also extending its reach to the world of celebrity, with Adam Sandler appearing to promote his new movie, Jack and Jill, on Nov. 11.

Dr. Oz will keep his focus on helping his audience grow happier and healthier. This season, Oz launched “Dr. Oz’s Transformation Nation: Million-Dollar You,” and on Nov. 7, he will talk about how women over 40 can lose 40 pounds or more.

“Issues that we’ve found really resonate with our audience are weight-loss and specifics inside your weight-loss,” says Borman. “Our viewers also are interested in how to prevent cancer, and how to prevent some of the things they fear the most. News leads really work well for us, and this season, it’s been sit-down interviews with thought leaders that are really connecting with our viewers.”

On Nov. 9, nutrition expert Dr. Andrew Weil will sit down with Dr. Mehmet Oz to talk about his battle with depression and how that led him to create a four-week personal plan for happiness.

One of November’s biggest events will be the monthlong goodbye party for Regis Philbin, who departs Disney/ABC Television’s Live! With Regis and Kelly on Nov. 18, after being with the show since 1982.

After that, Live! will start its search for a new cohost. Jerry Seinfeld is the first guest host on tap, with a three-episode stint airing Nov. 19-21.

E-mail comments to palbiniak@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA

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