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Courtshows rule syndie season.

HOLLYWOOD Even as the syndication biz gears up a new crop of shows, station managers and syndie biz execs are now able to crunch the final numbers on last season.

Courtshows, continued to rule, and "Hollywood Squares" returned with a bang. And there may be a lesson to be learned in the promising start for the relationship-driven "Forgive or Forget" and "Change of Heart," both of which blend talkshow dish with gameshow suspense.

Still, the 1998-99 syndicated season, running from Aug. 31, 1998 to Aug. 29, 1999, saw all but one genre face ratings erosion. All in all, syndicators learned that network shows aren't the only programs facing declining audiences.

Courtshows

Courtshows were the only genre to show overall growth last season, and the strong start of "Divorce Court" two weeks ago shows that auds are hungry for more.

The genre packed a wallop for Paramount, which offered stations red-hot "Judge Judy" and successful debuts of "Judge Joe Brown" and "Judge Mills Lane."

"Judy" had a boffo year, skyrocketing 56% to third place among all syndicated shows with an average 6.7 rating, buoyed by double runs in various markets. "Joe Brown" finished second in the category during its debut year, earning a strong 3.2 rating.

Talkshows

The most popular of the syndicated genres hit a lull last season despite the debuts of big-name programs, featuring Roseanne, Donny and Marie and Howie Mandel. In fact, among veterans, only one show was able to show any ratings growth at all.

Oprah's lone reign atop the talk heap finally ended, as Studios USA's "Jerry Springer" tied the King World program as the highest-rated talker, ending a long string of "Oprah"-dominated wins that dates back to the '80s.

"The Oprah Winfrey Show" finished the season down 10% for a 6.3 season average. Heated rival "Jerry Springer," slipped only 3%, despite programming out its popular fight segments in June.

Bowing programs made little to no impact in the ratings and caused some station managers headaches for signing two-year deals.

Ironically, the only new show not to showcase an established name, Twentieth Television's "Forgive or Forget," is the one analysts say is most likely to run long-term. "Forgive or Forget" came in first among new shows, earning a 1.8 rating for the season.

Another show that defied genre pigeonholing, Telepictures' "Change of Heart," clicked in latenight in many markets. Half-hour strip is returning with better timeslots and is likely to continue to grow.

Gameshows

Despite annual declarations of their pending demise, the gameshow tandem of "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy" continued to pull significantly more household auds than other first-run programs. This year, "Wheel of Fortune" dipped only 2% to a 10.9 rating, while "Jeopardy" fell 3% to a 9.1.

But the key entrant to the genre was "Hollywood Squares," also from King World. While stations were once frowning on gameshows as an audience draw, "Squares" pulled an average 4.0 rating in its freshman year, a huge leap over the 1997-98 season's third-place finisher, Columbia TriStar's "The Newlywed Dating Hour," which earned a 1.0 rating.

Off-net sitcoms

A new champion arose from the flames of off-net programming, as Warner Bros.' "Friends" edged former "must-see-TV" partner "Seinfeld" for the ratings crown in its first season in syndication.

"Friends" averaged a 6.4 rating for the season compared with Columbia TriStar's "Seinfeld" which took home a 6.1. The "Friends" rating was good enough to place fourth overall in syndication.

Newsmags

There was little movement in the newsmag race last season, as perennial winner "Entertainment Tonight" claimed the top prize for the ninth-straight year. The Paramount show was off a tenth of a rating point for the year, closing the season at a 5.7 rating.

Second place went to Warner Bros.' "Extra," dropping 10% over the season to a 3.7, but still better than last year's runner-up, "Inside Edition." The King World entrant saw the largest drop in the genre, falling 21% for a 3.3 rating.

Weeklies

All the hype surrounding Warner Bros.' off-net debut of "ER" wasn't enough to nudge "The X-Files" out of first place.

Twentieth TV's "X-Files" fell 19% for the season, but still brought in a 5.1 rating, a full ratings point ahead of the secondplace doctors' hour.

Firstrun's big three -- Paramount's "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and Studio USA's "Xena" and "Hercules" -- all saw double-digit drop-offs from the previous season, with "Trek" falling 14% to a 3.8 during its final season and the Studios USA programs each sliding 25% to a 3.8 and 3.6 respectively.

There was a surprisingly tight race among firstrun rookies as Columbia TriStar's heavily hyped "VIP" beat "Stargate SG-I" by a nose with a 2.9 rating, compared with a 2.8 for the MGM program.

SEASON'S TOP-30 SYNDIES
Aug. 31, 1998-Aug. 29, 1999

                                    stations/
Rank   Program                      % coverage   AA%    GAA %

  1    Wheel of Fortune              229/98      10.9
  2    Jeopardy!                     223/98       9.1    --
  3    Judge Judy                    217/98       6.7    9.4
  4    Friends                       221/90       6.4    7.3
  5    Jerry Springer                206/95       6.3    7.0
  5    Oprah Winfrey                 238/99       6.3    6.3
  7    Seinfeld                      233/97       6.1
  8    Entertainment Tonight         183/95       5.7    5.8
  9    Frasier                       207/96       5.3    5.7
 10    Wheel of Fortune-Wknd         174/77       5.1    --
 10    X-Files                       240/98       5.1    5.5
 12    Home Improvement              232/98       5.0    5.4
 13    ER                            228/92       4.1    4.7
 14    Hollywood Squares             181/91       4.0    --
 14    Seinfeld-Wknd                 204/94       4.0    --
 16    Simpsons                      178/94       3.8    3.9
 16    Star Trek: Deep Space Nine    238/97       3.8    4.1
 16    Xena                          227/98       3.8    4.0
 19    Extra                         223/97       3.7    3.7
 19    Sally Jessy Raphael           210/97       3.7    3.8
 21    Journeys of Hercules          230/98       3.6    3.9
 21    Montel Williams               198/96       3.6    3.6
 21    Rosie O'Donnell               338/99(*)    3.6    3.6
 24    Walker Texas Ranger           230/97       3.5    3.8
 25    Inside Edition                134/87       3.3    3.3
 25    Live W/Regis & Kathie Lee     224/99       3.3
 25    Ricki Lake                    205/95       3.3    3.5
 28    Baywatch                      180/92       3.2    3.3
 28    Judge Joe Brown               189/95       3.2    4.0
 30    Jenny Jones                   223/89       3.1    3.3
 30    Maury                         201/97       3.1    3.2
 30    NYPD Blue                     235/98       3.1    3.3


AA average refers to nonduplicated viewing for multiple airings of the same show.

GAA average encompasses duplicated viewing.

GAA average does not apply when there is only one run of a show.

(*) Reflects carriage on the WeB cable channels.

Source: Nielsen3
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Title Annotation:courtroom dramas dominate television syndication in 1998-99
Comment:Courtshows rule syndie season.(courtroom dramas dominate television syndication in 1998-99)
Author:PURSELL, CHRIS
Publication:Variety
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 13, 1999
Words:1132
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