Ready, Set, Syndicate

TMZ has a steady first week

Warner Bros.' much-anticipated gossip magazine, TMZ, is the top-rated first-run rookie strip after nearly every show in syndication premiered last Monday. TMZ started its off-Web life with a 1.8 rating/4 share primary-run weighted metered market average, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“The show was designed to fill a void in the marketplace by serving a core adult 18-49 demographic and giving stations a more gender-balanced audience within the entertainment magazine genre,” said Ken Werner, president, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “We're very encouraged by the show's strong debut.”

While TMZ, which is cleared mostly in access and late-fringe time periods, can claim the highest rating among the five new strips, it's down 18% versus its lead-in and year-ago time period. Those are two areas where NBC Universal's The Steve Wilkos Show, a spin-off of the company's veteran Jerry Springer, is the winner so far.

Wilkos opened at a 1.1/4 three-day primary-run average. It's the only new show to improve on its lead-in, where it's up 22%. The show is even versus last year's time-period average.

“Obviously, it's very early on, but we are very encouraged with the ratings, as well as the feedback we are receiving from viewers, our local stations and advertising partners,” says Barry Wallach, president, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution.

In many markets, Wilkos replaces double-runs of NBC Universal's Jerry Springer. “At this early stage, Wilkos' numbers are preferable to what Jerry Springer repeats had been doing,” says Bill Carroll, vice president, programming, Katz Media Group.

In third place among the rookies, Sony's Judge David Young averaged a 0.9/3 for its first three days. That's a good beginning, because Young held its lead-in and remained even with its year-ago time period average.

The weak starts of syndication's two new game shows—Program Partners' Merv Griffin's Crosswords and Twentieth's Temptation—concerned analysts, although Carroll points out that Crosswords is in tough time periods in top markets. Crosswords earned a 0.8/2 three-day average for all runs, down 20% from its lead-in and 38% from last September's time-period average.

And Temptation—a revival of Sale of the Century that hopes to combine game play with online shopping—scored a 0.5/2 three-day average for all runs. That's off 17% from its average lead-in and 44% from its year-ago time period average.

Off-net sitcoms—Warner Bros.' Two and a Half Men and Twentieth's Family Guy—both premiered at “reasonable” levels, said Carroll. Another analyst says it's not fair to judge access shows such as sitcoms or entertainment magazines until daylight savings time ends and people start watching TV earlier in the evening. Two and a Half Men, opened with a 2.0/4 three-day average, holding steady with its lead-in but down 13% from its year-ago time period average. And Seth McFarlane's animated Family Guy averaged a 1.9/4, a 5% drop from its lead-in and a 10% drop from its Sept. 2006 time-period average.

Warner Bros.' off-net comedy George Lopez also premiered and averaged a 0.8/2, down 11% from its lead-in and 27% from its year-ago time period averages. And MGM's off-Comedy Central sitcom, Reno 911, averaged a 0.6/2 in its first two days, down 25% from its lead-in and year-ago time period average.

And finally, just to prove she's still queen of daytime, CBS Television Distribution's Oprah Winfrey Show held syndication's biggest premiere, launching the show's 26th season by broadcasting from New York City for the first time ever. (She interviewed David Letterman.) Oprah's season premiere scored a 5.3/14 in 51 metered markets, up 89% from its 2.8/7 lead-in and up 26% from last year.