David Letterman and Bill Clinton kick-started the May sweeps period with appearances on Live With Regis & Kelly and Rachael Ray, respectively, delivering a welcome ratings pop that reverberated through the syndication world.
On April 26—not coincidentally the first day of sweeps—Letterman was the first guest to welcome host Regis Philbin back to the Live set after Philbin's recent heart-bypass surgery. Together, the old buddies drummed up a big 4.4 national household rating for the day and helped Live average a 3.5 for the week ended April 29, a 13% jump over the previous week.
Meanwhile, President Clinton brought some stately numbers to Rachael Ray. His April 26 stint earned the show a 2.3, helping it gain 11% from the previous week, to a 2.1 average.
The news was good across the talk-show genre, with double-digit increases over a week in which schedules were shaken up due to coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.
As always, The Oprah Winfrey Show led the category with a 5.9, up 13% on the week. Her progeny Dr. Phil continues to show strength behind her, averaging a 5.2 on the week, a 16% weekly increase that marked the best in first-run syndication.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show jumped 10% to a 2.3 average that week but had some even better news since.
From May 1 to 3, DeGeneres hosted her show from an on-set hospital bed after suffering a serious back injury. And with solid guests like Ryan Seacrest, Lindsay Lohan and Nathan Lane, the show found traction, averaging a 2.6 rating/8 share in households, according to the preliminary metered-market numbers.
The Tyra Banks Show also got a bump on May 3, thanks to an appearance by teen phenom Hilary Duff. An hour with the multifaceted star banked Tyra a 1.1 rating/8 share in her target female 18-34 demo, according to the metered-market numbers, 57% above the previous week.
On the other end of the age spectrum, pop legend Neil Sedaka's live performance on The Morning Show With Mike & Juliet earned the rookie show a 1.3/5, according to metered-market figures—an 8% boost week-over-week.
While Rosie O'Donnell began weighing offers from syndicators for her next project, news of her departure from ABC's The View gave magazines a bump on the week.
As usual, Entertainment Tonight topped the category, inching up 2% on the week to a 5.1, followed by Inside Edition's 13% jump to a 3.5 average. Access Hollywood gained 4% to a 2.6 and, for the first nine days of the sweeps (taking into account metered-market numbers), was on top of the 18-49 demo in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Elsewhere in magazines, The Insider was up 9%, at a 2.5, and Extra rose 5%, to a 2.2.
The crowded court genre saw a bunch of weekly increases but few year-over-year gains as the category continues to show signs of saturation.
Judge Judy was up 5% on the week, to a 4.5; Judge Joe Brown was up 8%, to a 2.8; People's Court gained 8%, to a 2.7; Judge Mathis held steady at a 2.4; and Divorce Court was up 5%, to a 2.0. Only Mathis was up on the year, showing a 4% gain.
In the off-net world, a Yahoo! promo leading up to the May 14 series finale of King of Queens has paid dividends for the syndicated run of the show. In the markets targeted by the online push, the show saw a 5% bump.