New Series Settle InFor the (Hopefully) Long Run

Arsenio declines, Bethenny is flat but low, and Latifah holds strong among the season’s new talk shows
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Why This Matters
Syndicated shows can grow, but launches more often than not set the pace for the upcoming season.

All of syndication's major new shows—from Arsenio to Bethenny to Queen Latifah—are up and running, with some getting off to better starts than others. The operative question now will be a familiar one: Do these shows grow and thrive or fade and fail?

CBS Television Distribution’s new latenight entry, The Arsenio Hall Show— which it’s producing and distributing in partnership with Tribune—took the industry by surprise with its strong start. The show scored a 1.9 rating/5 share metered-market household average with its Sept. 9 debut, according to Nielsen, up 90% from the year-ago time-period average and 19% from its lead-ins. In late-night’s key demographic of adults 25-54, Arsenio scored a 1.2/5, up compared with last September by 100% and up over its lead-ins by 70%.

Now in its third week, Arsenio’s ratings have declined each week. After opening at a 1.6/4 first-week average, the show declined to a 1.2/3 in its second week and to a 1.0/2 in week three. At a 1.0/2, Arsenio is flat compared with year-ago time periods and down 23% compared with its 1.3/3 lead-in.

Among adults 25-54, the story is much the same. After opening at a 1.0/4 week-one average, Arsenio has declined in subsequent weeks to a 0.7/3 in week two, and a 0.5/2 in week three, which is flat compared with year-ago and lead-in.

In its first week of national ratings, which came out last week, the show premiered at a solid 1.1, in line with CTD’s and Tribune’s most hopeful expectations. That said, metered-market ratings indicate that the show’s national rating also will decline in coming weeks, so Arsenio needs to level out and gain in the coming darker, colder months.

“Most shows initially premiere a little higher than where they are going to end up,” says Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming, Katz Television Group. “Arsenio is up from its lead-ins in six of the top 10 markets and up in 22 markets over its first week. It’s rare that a show maintains from week one through its next couple of weeks, and when a show is building on its lead-ins in some of the top markets, and particularly New York and Los Angeles, that’s a good sign.”

‘Bethenny’ Looking for Growth

Warner Bros.’ Bethenny didn’t get off to as strong a start as Arsenio, but the show’s ratings are holding. The Bethenny Frankel starrer opened at a 1.0/3 week-one average, down 16% from both its year-ago time period average and lead-ins. Among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54—an important group for Bethenny, because the show is cleared on many traditional affiliates in afternoon time slots—the show started a bit stronger, opening at a 0.7/5, up 16% from its lead-ins and flat compared with last year.

Three weeks in, the show is averaging a 0.9/3 in households and a 0.6/4 among women 25-54, down a tenth of a ratings point in each measure.

The show performs best among young women 18-34, which works well for the Fox-owned stations on which the show is cleared in top markets, but not as well for traditional affiliates, whose core audience is composed of older women. In that younger demographic, Bethenny is averaging a 0.5/4, flat compared with its lead-ins but up 25% compared with last year.

All told, Bethenny did not open to the ratings expected by those who observed the show’s test on six Fox stations last summer.

“I think it’s off to a slow start,” Carroll says. “It’s doing well in the markets where they did the summer test, and it’s continuing to do well with younger women. Where it’s challenged is probably in 10 to a dozen markets in the metered sample where the show is running on traditional affiliates.”

Several sources also report that Warner Bros’ Telepictures, the show’s producer, already is tweaking Bethenny, making its content less edgy and sexual in nature, and more inspirational instead.

National ratings for Bethenny were not available in the week ended Sept. 15.

‘Latifah’ Holds Steady

Finally, Sony Pictures Television’s Latifah, which premiered Monday, Sept. 16, to a strong 1.5 rating/4 share household metered-market average, is settling a bit.

In its first week, the Queen Latifah talker was up 15% from its 1.3/4 year-ago time period average and 7% from its 1.4/4 lead-in in ratings. That makes Latifah syndication’s second highest-rated talk debut in the metered markets—behind Disney-ABC’s Katie— since SPT premiered Dr. Oz in 2009. Among women 25-54, Latifah was up 60% over both its 0.5/3 lead-in and year-ago time period average to a 0.8/5.

In its second week, those numbers dropped off a bit to a 1.3/4 in households, even with the year-ago period and down 7% from its lead-ins. Among women 25-54, the daytime demographic that’s most important to the CBS-owned stations on which the show launched in top markets, Latifah, at a 0.7/4, is up over both year-ago and lead-in.

“So far, Latifah has good, solid numbers,” Carroll says. “I think [Sony] has to be pleased with how well she did in week one.”

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