With holiday shopping, power outages in the Pacific Northwest and a schedule full of reruns, viewers stayed away and many shows hit new season lows.
Most syndicated strips went nowhere in the week ending Dec. 17 which was a big pre-Christmas shopping week. This was reflected in the people using television (PUT) level, which dropped by an average 386,000 viewers compared to the week before. However, a couple of the top first-run weeklies had strong rallies.
In addition to having to compete with holiday preparations, strips also had to contend with severe storms in the Pacific Northwest that knocked out power to thousands of viewers and all Nielsen ratings in both the Seattle and Portland, Ore., markets on Dec. 14.
With many in repeats, all of the talk shows were down or flat, with Oprah hitting a new season low—it fell 8% to a 6.0. Compared to last year at this time, every talker fell by double digits, except Dr. Phil which was off only 6% to a 4.7. Rachael Ray, the rookie champion by a mile this season, slipped 5% to a 2.1, although the show still scored its highest ratings in 10 weeks in the top market—New York—hitting a 3.7/15 and winning its timeslot by a more than a 2-1 margin. Dr. Keith Ablow was a distant second among the new talkers, with a 1.1, unchanged. Megan Mullally took third with a 0.9, also unchanged, and Greg Behrendt brought up the rear with a 0.8, also unchanged.
Judge Judy led the gavelers, although it fell 2% to a 4.7. Hitting a new low was Judge Hachette, which lost 13% to a 1.3. Every court show was down from last year, except Judge Mathis which was even at a 2.4.
Entertainment Tonight was the highest-rated magazine and the only one not to decline from last year, holding steady at a 5.4.
Wheel of Fortune ruled the games, although it was down 2% to an 8.6. Year to year, all the games were down except Wheel, which was unchanged, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, which was up 3% to a 3.4 in third place.
In off-net syndication, the top three strips were all down 20% or more from last year. Everybody Loves Raymond was on top with a 5.3, down 2% for the week and down 20% from last year. Seinfeld, in second place, was unchanged at a 4.6, but down 21% from last year, while Friends, at a 3.8, was flat week-to-week and down 25% year-to-year.
Entertainment Tonight Weekend, which has been the top-rated weekly hour in first-run every week since Dec. 15, 2002—or for exactly four years this week—was up 13% week-to-week to a 2.7 and up 17% year-to-year. Second-place Access Hollywood Weekend gained 13% both for the week and the year, to a 1.8.
Among the weekly hours, newcomer CSI: Miami led with a 5.0, up 4%. Without a Trace, also a rookie, was second with a 2.7, down 4%, and American Idol Rewind, a third rookie, was unchanged at a 2.5.
Weekly off-net half-hours were headed by Seinfeld Weekend, up 8% to a 3.9, but down 15% from last year. Everybody Loves Raymond Weekend slipped 3% to a 3.3 and dropped 8% from last year.