Syndication Ratings: WB Scores May Sweeps Trifecta

Strong Freshman Seasons for TMZ , Two and a Half Men , George Lopez

All three of Warner Bros.’ rookie shows -- TMZ, Two and a Half Men and George Lopez -- finished their freshman seasons strong, while Warner veteran Ellen DeGeneres, now ending its fourth season, completed a solid year. Most other syndies were sharply down at the conclusion of this year’s May sweeps.

Access magazine TMZ gained 10% since its September premiere, jumping to a 2.2 Nielsen Media Research live-plus-same-day household-ratings average during May sweeps, which ended May 21. TMZ, which airs on Fox stations in big markets, appeared to get a boost from Fox’s high-rated American Idol finale, averaging a 2.6 rating on the night rocker David Cook was named this year’s American Idol.

Charlie Sheen-starrer Two and a Half Men, which was upgraded to access time periods in many markets throughout the year, improved a whopping 70% to a 5.1 average since its September debut.

And Warner Bros.’ other newcomer, George Lopez, jumped 41% since September to a 3.1 and fifth place overall among off-network sitcoms.

Ellen, in fourth place among talk shows, arguably had the genre’s best performance, only losing 5% from last May to a 2.1. That makes Ellen the only talker to only decline by single-digits. Ellen also had its best ratings since mid-March in the sweep’s final week, hitting a 2.3, up 10% both for the week and for the year.

Warner Bros. wasn’t the only syndicator with some good stories to tell. CBS’ Judge Judy finished out a stellar year with its strongest May sweep since 2005, improving 7% from last May to a 4.8 live-plus-same-day average household rating for the sweep. In addition, Judy’s 7.3 GAA ratings average -- in which all viewings of a show’s runs are counted versus the AA rating, which only counts one viewing no matter how many episodes were watched -- was the highest of any show in syndication.

Wheel of Fortune, typically syndication’s highest-rated show, came in second at a 7.1 AA rating. (Wheel does not use GAA ratings because the show is not double-run, while Judy is double-run in most markets.)

The only other first-run strip to show year-to-year growth in May was CBS’ Jeopardy!, which climbed 3% to a 6.0 and third place overall.

Warner’s rookies weren’t the only ones to grow throughout the year. Twentieth Television’s off-net offering, Family Guy, improved 20% since its September debut to a 4.2. Among the daytime newcomers, Twentieth’s The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet jumped 25% from its debut to a 1.0, while NBC Universal’s freshman talker, The Steve Wilkos Show, grew 11% since September to average a 1.0.

Meanwhile, Sony’s Judge David Young was flat at a 0.8. Program Partners’ Merv Griffin’s Crosswords was down 13% to a 0.7. Twentieth’s Temptation lost 20% from its premiere week to a 0.4. Radar Entertainment’s Jury Duty was up 50% to a 0.3 from an opening-week 0.2. And Acme’s The Daily Buzz, which debuted nationally in July 2007, fell 50% from a 0.2 to a 0.1.

Talk, a category in which 10 shows are in development for 2009, was the most challenged genre, with no shows seeing year-to-year increases.

The long-standing talk leader, CBS’ The Oprah Winfrey Show, dropped 11% from last May to a 5.5. CBS’ Dr. Phil fell 15% from last May, although the show could boast about an average gain of 48% over its lead-ins in the metered markets. Disney-ABC’s Live with Regis and Kelly sank 21% to a 2.6.

NBCU’s Maury lost 14% to a 1.9. CBS’ Rachael Ray dropped 10%, the category’s second-smallest decline, to a 1.8. Rachael Ray also notched a strong first place in its time period on WABC in top-market New York, beating her nearest competitors by more than 70%.

CBS’ Montel Williams, in its final May sweep in first run, fell 19% to a 1.3. NBCU’s Jerry Springer had talk’s biggest decline, losing 31% to a 1.1. Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks, also at a 1.1, was down 15% from last year, although the show saw increases among Tyra’s key demographics. In markets monitored by Local People Meters, Tyra gained 17% among women 18-34 and 20% among women 18-49. NBCU’s Martha Stewart averaged a 0.9, down 25%, although it was up sharply from last May in key markets such as Los Angeles, where the show grew 17%, and Chicago, where it was up 150%.

Without any big celebrity stories breaking in May, all of the access magazines were down by double-digits. CBS’ Entertainment Tonight won its 71st consecutive sweeps with a 4.3, down 14%. In second place, CBS’ Inside Edition lost 12% to a 3.0. At a 2.2, TMZ edged out CBS’ The Insider and NBCU’s Access Hollywood, each of which was down 16% to a 2.1. Warner Bros.’ Extra fell 14% to a 1.8.

Judge Judy was court’s best story, while the rest of the genre was down. CBS’ Judge Joe Brown, in second place, had the second-best May sweep showing, dropping only 4% -- or one-tenth of a ratings point -- to a 2.6. Warner Bros.’ People’s Court slipped 8% to a 2.3. Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis dropped 17% to a 1.9. Twentieth’s Divorce Court fell 15% to a 1.7. Twentieth’s Judge Alex, also at a 1.7, dipped 6%. Twentieth’s Cristina’s Court and Sony’s Judge Hatchett each fell 21% to a 1.1. Sony’s Judge Maria Lopez declined 11% to a 0.8.

Game shows were the steadiest genre. Leader Wheel of Fortune dipped 3% to a 7.1, followed by Jeopardy! at a 6.0. Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire fell 7% to a 2.8, while Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud was unchanged at a 1.7.

Rookies Two and a Half Men and Family Guy led the off-net sitcoms. In third place, Sony veteran Seinfeld slipped 10% to a 3.8, followed by CBS’ Everybody Loves Raymond, which plunged 27% to a 3.3. Newcomer George Lopez took fifth place, and it was followed by veterans King of Queens at a 2.8, down 10%, and Warner Bros.’ Friends at a 2.6, down 21%.