Sitcoms soar into new season


Off-net sitcoms have come on strong in the new season, with Will & Grace, That '70s Show, Dharma & Greg
and The Hughleys
bowing in syndication last month and sophomore Everybody Loves Raymond
taking the No. 2 spot away from Seinfeld
in the first two weeks of the new season.

All four rookie sitcoms scored in the top 10: Warner Bros.'Will & Grace
at No. 4,
Carsey-Werner's That '70s Show
No. 5, and Twentieth's Dharma & Greg
No. 6 and The Hughleys
No. 9, according to Nielsen Media Research's overnight ratings for Sept. 23-27.

Tribune, which bought group licenses for Will & Grace, is thrilled with the show's performance, says President Patrick Mullen. "It looks like we've got another hit on our hands."

In its first week, Will & Grace
scored a 4.8, tying Sony Pictures Television's Seinfeld.
Combined with a prime time performance by The WB that is surprising even that network, running Will & Grace, Warner Bros.'Friends
and King World's Everybody Loves Raymond
in early and late fringes is paying off for Tribune stations, many of which are WB affiliates in major markets.

The three sitcoms pull in the 18-49 and 18-34 crowds that both The WB and Tribune seek to attract. They provide a strong lead-in to The WB's prime time lineup, Mullen said, and Will & Grace
averaged an 11% increase on its lead-in share in both fringe periods.

What's more, boosted by prime time Emmys, Raymond
has beaten Seinfeld
twice, scoring a 6.2 rating to Seinfeld's 5.8 in the first week and a 7.5 vs. 4.8 in the second. In week two, Raymond
knocked Friends
out of its spot as top-rated off-net sitcom.

Like Will & Grace, Dharma & Greg
also had just completed its first week at press time, notching a 3.0.

That '70s Show
also had a strong debut, scoring a 3.3 in the national ratings for its first week and a 4.1 in overnight ratings for week two. (Overnight ratings are available the next day; national ratings become available one week later and include station clearances.) The Hughleys' debut was not as strong, logging a 1.3.