With upfront season upon us, the focus this week is on first-run syndication and the categories of talk, court, game and magazine. Unlike the broadcast networks and cable, which battle for eyeballs against the rise of mobile devices and streaming services (like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu), the inherent advantage in syndication is the stability. Advertisers can more easily target their buys in daytime, and the added advantage is that most of the target females still prefer to watch their favorite shows live.
Naturally, the shortage of available time periods in recent years has inhibited the launch of new strips. Only "Harry" from NBCUniveral, hosted by Harry Connick Jr., debuted nationally in first-run syndication this season and the ratings are modest. With more stations producing shows locally (including upcoming panel talker "Sister Circle" and weekly competition "Sing Like a Star," both from Tegna), the majority of occupants in syndication remain the established entries.
Of course, no show can last forever, not even in syndication. "The Insider" from CBS Television Distribution (CTD) has been canceled, marking the first over decade-old strip to exit in years, and other veterans are beginning to look questionable.
Here is a look at the current status of each genre.
Thirteen current first-run strips are cleared nationally. Overall, "Live with Kelly" from Disney-ABC ranks a comfortable second behind category leader "Dr. Phil" from CTD, but a loss of 17 percent in households year-to-year indicates the distributor is in need of a permanent co-host. "Dr. Oz" from Sony Pictures Television, already renewed through 2018-19, is down by a noticeable 14 percent over last year. So, two more seasons may be the final hurrah for the busy doctor. And cellar dwellers "The Doctors" from CTD and "The Real" from Warner Bros., the latter which has not benefited by the loss of co-host Tamar Braxton, could be nearing extinction.
"Steve Harvey" from NBCUniversal, meanwhile, is leaving Chicago and heading to Los Angeles next season in a new hour co-produced by Harvey and IMG, which is not expected to have any noticeable impact. Aforementioned "Harry" is on the fence for renewal for next season. And the rising age of NBCUniversal talk show hosts Maury Povich (78) and Jerry Springer (73) could open up time periods after their current deals expire. Both talk shows, along with "The Steve Wilkos Show," are confirmed until September 2018.
Elsewhere, the future of "T.D. Jakes" from Tegna, which began in a four market test-run in the summer of 2015 and expanded to additional markets this season, is a question mark. And buzz about a daily hour of talk from E.W. Scripps, "Ben & Kellie," hosted by reporter Ben Aron and country star Kellie Pickler, has cooled. There was also noise of a new daily hour of talk hosted by Drew Barrymore from Warner Bros. for next season, which could now be more likely for fall 2018 if it moves forward.
"Dr. Phil" (CTD): 3.4 rating (+10 percent over last year), "Live With Kelly" (Disney-ABC): 2.4 (-17 percent), "Ellen DeGeneres" (Warner Bros.): 2.4 (-8 percent), "Steve Harvey" (NBC): 1.6 (-11 percent), "Maury" (NBCU): 1.6 (-6 percent), "Wendy Williams" (Debmar-Mercury): 1.5 (-6 percent), "Rachael Ray" (CTD): 1.4 (no change), "Steve Wilkos" (NBCU): 1.3 (-7 percent), "Jerry Springer" (NBCU): 1.3 (no change), "Harry" (NBCU): 1.2, "Dr. Oz" (Sony Pictures Television): 1.2 (-14 percent), "The Doctors" (CTD) and "The Real" (Warner Bros.): 0.9 (-10 percent each)
With a hefty 7.1 household rating this season to-date, "Judge Judy" from CTD has a larger advantage over the No. 2 genre occupant ("Hot Bench," also from CTD) than any other first-run strip in syndication. But like Maury Povich and Jerry Springer the question is how long 74-year old Judith Sheindlin will want to continue working four days per month at a reported annual paycheck of $47 million. My guess is indefinitely.
The four other first-run court strips—"People's Court," "Judge Mathis," "Divorce Court" and "Judge Faith"—are all down from one year earlier. But all are expected to return, and a seventh member of the category, "Couple's Court" from MGM's Orion Television, will begin next fall. Talk of a proposed judge show featuring one-time GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has all but evaporated.
"Judge Judy" (CTD): 7.1 (-3 percent), "Hot Bench" (CTD): 2.4 (no change), "People's Court" (Warner Bros.): 1.7 (-6 percent), "Judge Mathis" (Warner Bros.): 1.3 (-13 percent), "Divorce Court" (Twentieth): 1.1 (-15 percent), "Judge Faith" (Trifecta): 0.8 (-11 percent)
For the first time in 34 years, "Wheel of Fortune" from CTD is not the top-rated first-run game show. That honor goes to "Family Feud" from Debmar-Mercury, hosted by Steve Harvey. But "Wheel" is still rock solid at a 6.4 household rating (as is corporate cousin "Jeopardy" at a 6.1). The only question facing "Wheel" and Jeopardy" is also how long aging hosts Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek want to continue.
"Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" from Disney-ABC is also confirmed to return next season, but Debmar-Mercury has opted against a fourth season of "Celebrity Name Game," hosted by Craig Ferguson. Entertainment Studios has been shopping a hybrid of comedy and quiz, featuring a panel of comedians called "Funny You Should Ask," but there is no news on any clearances.
"Family Feud" (Debmar-Mercury): 7.0 (+8 percent), "Wheel of Fortune" (CTD): 6.4 (-6 percent), "Jeopardy" (CTD): 6.1 (-5 percent), "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" (Disney-ABC): 1.7 (+31 percent), "Celebrity Name Game" (Debmar-Mercury): 1.3 (no change)
With aforementioned "The Insider" from CTD canceled, joining the category of magazine (after a test-run last summer) is "Page Six TV" from Twentieth Television and Endemol Shine North America, based on the iconic gossip page from the New York Post. It is now cleared in more than 80 percent of the country for a fall 2017 launch. The remaining magazine strips are all returning next season.
Elsewhere, Twentieth has been pitching a potential entry to stations called "Top 30" following a test-run last summer, which is described as a pop-culture show featuring aggregated videos. And "BOLD" (which stands for Broadcast Online Live Daily), a proposed live half hour from Tegna and MGM that draws content from social media and uses it to interact with viewers, has also been pitched, but there is no news on clearances for ether proposed strip.
"Entertainment Tonight" (CTD): 3.3 (+3 percent), "Inside Edition" (CTD): 3.0 (no change), "TMZ" (Warner Bros.): 1.6 (-11 percent), "Right This Minute" (Disney-ABC): 1.5 (+36 percent), "Access Hollywood" (NBCU): 1.5 (-12 percent), "Extra" (Warner Bros.): 1.3 (-7 percent), "The Insider" (CTD): 1.2 (no change), "Dish Nation" (Twentieth): 0.8 (-11 percent), "Celebrity Page" (Trifecta): 0.3
—All ratings figures are through Feb. 26 and based on Live + Same Day data.