Twentieth's Plan To Grow Geraldo

Rivera off to a modest start; Philbin stays hot
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Twentieth Television is taking a patient approach to Geraldo at Large, despite the show's modest ratings. In the first two weeks since replacing A Current Affair, Geraldo has averaged a 2.2 rating/4 share and a 2.3/5, respectively. It's also off 31% from its average lead-in and down 12% from the year-ago time-period average.

But execs say they expected the slow start. Geraldo was put together quickly after the decision was made to replace A Current Affair, which left little time for promotion, much less for fine-tuning the show itself. “Geraldo Rivera is a high-profile name on a show that did not have a high-profile launch,” says a Twentieth spokesperson. “It only had a two-week marketing buildup, [so] the numbers are where we expected them to be.”

An awareness study conducted by Twentieth says that, while Rivera is a known entity, the show is not. But Twentieth does see a positive side: Geraldo trended up from its first week to its second overall, as well as in 17 of its 33 metered markets. One of those markets was Los Angeles, which was up 19% (1.6 to 1.9) week-over-week, a key figure because L.A. and New York make up 24% of the overall overnight numbers for the show. “While it's obviously not an across-the-board win, there are signs of encouragement,” says the spokesperson.

Twentieth is looking to grow the numbers gradually through a public-relations push (Rivera has made appearances on everything from The View to Howard Stern's radio show) and by reaching out to Rivera's former Fox News Channel viewers through opt-in e-mail lists. Twentieth executives want to see the show's ratings above a 3.0 by the end of the February book, and they will concentrate promotional dollars that month to back the effort.

Host With the Most

When ABC announced recently that it was hiring Regis Philbin to host the remake of This Is Your Life, it was betting he could still attract viewers the way he did for Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. After Philbin—who'll also host Fox's New Year's Eve celebration—helped two syndicated shows deliver their season-best performances recently, it looks like a safe bet.

The reuniting of Philbin and Kathie Lee Gifford helped Paramount's access magazine, The Insider, to its best week this season in the national household ratings for the week ended Nov. 6, which included the first two days of November sweeps. Insider correspondent Gifford interviewed her former co-host on Nov. 3, which helped the show earn a season-high 3.1 for the day, pushing its weekly average to a season-best 2.9—up 7% both for the week and year-to-year.

Meanwhile, Buena Vista's Live With Regis and Kelly also hit a season high, delivering a 4.0 for its Halloween show, which saw the hosts dressed up as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. That pushed Live's weekly number to a 3.6, up 6% for the week.

SNTA Says TGIF

As the broadcast networks are slumping on Fridays, many are wondering if Friday will become the new Saturday: a dumping ground for repeats and movies.

But the Syndicated Network Television Association (SNTA) is reminding advertisers that syndication is healthy on Fridays. According to a recent SNTA report (based on ratings for Aug. 29-Oct. 23), syndication accounts for five of the top 10 rated shows on Fridays in the 18-49 demo and eight of the top 10 in 18-34.

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