Vets Trounce Rookies At Season’s Start

'Wendy,' 'Ellen,' 'Harvey,' 'Live' all premiere strongly
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Most of the season’s new major first-run syndication shows have premiered—with the exception of Debmar-Mercury’s Celebrity Name Game—and after early ratings returns, producers’ hopes have likely come back down to earth.

NBCUniversal’s Meredith Vieira was first up, debuting on Monday, Sept. 8, with a 1.4 rating/5 share primary-run household average in the weighted metered markets, according to Nielsen Media Research. That was up 8% from last year, but off 22% from its lead-ins, which are typically soap operas that tend to be viewed on a time-shifted basis.

Where Meredith showed weakness was in its demographic performance, averaging a 0.5/4 in its first week, equal to year-ago time periods but off 40% compared to its lead-ins.

“We’ll see how it plays out but I think the more optimistic of us thought Meredith would do slightly better,” says Bill Carroll, VP, programming, Katz Television Group.

Vieira’s admission on her Sept. 17 episode of her own experience of domestic abuse—in the wake of the scandal rocking the NFL—could be an early watershed moment for the show .

Still, the NBC owned stations had two other solid premieres to celebrate, with NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey debuting season 3 at a 1.7/5 in households and a 0.8/5 among women 25-54. In households, Harvey was up 21% from both its lead-in—often Meredith in top markets—and its year-ago time period average, which is usually Steve Harvey. Among women 25-54, Harvey was up 33% from its lead-in and up 14% from last year’s 0.7/5.

Harvey leads into Warner Bros.’ Ellen in most markets, which turned in its best premiere ever among households on Monday, according to Warner Bros., and then averaged a 2.9/8 for its first week back on the air.

The Real: Lots of Room to Grow

On Sept. 15, Warner Bros.’ premiered The Real, a panel talk show that made waves during its test on Fox owned stations last summer. Expectations were high for that show— which stars Adrienne Bailon, Tamar Braxton, Loni Love, Jeannie Mai and Tamera Mowry- Housley—and it fell somewhat flat in its debut, averaging a 0.9/3 in households over its first two days.

“That’s another one where I thought they would do better in terms of initial sampling,” says Carroll. “The bigger surprise is that in a number of situations they went into Bethenny time periods and they are underperforming what Bethenny initially did. That’s off to a disappointing start.”

Like with The Real, Warner Bros. got encouraging results when it tested Bethenny in summer 2012, and then it failed to meet expectations upon premiering in national syndication. Most observers, however, hope and expect The Real to grow, considering that most of its audience is composed of younger viewers, and the show’s hosts are very hip to social media.

Among women 25- 54, The Real averaged a 0.9/6 over its two days, down 10% in the demo but up compared to last year.

Two new court shows also bowed Sept. 15, and both were even compared to last year.

CBS Television Distribution’s Hot Bench, a new panel court show created by Judge Judy Sheindlin, opened last Monday with a 0.7/2 household average, and gained 14% on Tuesday to a 0.8/2. That’s up 14% from last year (0.7/2) and even with its lead-in.

Among women 25-54, Hot Bench held steady at a 0.3/2, even with both its lead-in and year-ago time period averages. Hot Bench is cleared on lower-rated stations in top markets.

Entertainment Studios’ Justice With Judge Mablean climbed from Monday’s 0.4/1 household average to a 0.5/2, and jumped 25% from both its lead-ins and year-ago time period averages.

Among women 25-54, Judge Mablean averaged a 0.3/2 on both days, tying Hot Bench and improving 50% from both its year-ago time period averages and lead-ins.

Happy Sixth So Far for Wendy

Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams also has a strong demo story to tell, after opening its sixth season on Sept. 15 at a 1.5/11 among women 25-54, according to final overnight ratings. That’s up 77% from its lead-in (0.9/7) and up 128% over its year-ago time period average (0.7/5).

That number fell back a bit on Tuesday, dropping 20% to a 1.2/9, but still gaining 50% from its lead-in (0.8/6) and 71% from last year at this time.

In households, Wendy Williams premiered at a 1.7/6, increasing 21% from its lead-in (1.4/5) and 54% from last year (1.1/4). In top markets, the show is mostly being compared to itself since it remains in the same time period in 13 out of the 14 top markets.

Most of the season’s new major first-run syndication shows have premiered—with the exception of Debmar-Mercury’s Celebrity Name Game—and after early ratings returns, producers’ hopes have likely come back down to earth.

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