Scripps Stations Survive Without Top Syndies
When Scripps jettisoned top-rated game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in seven markets in September and replaced them with the home-grown Let’s Ask America and The List, the TV station group made a bold strategic move to take control of its programming and finances. Either that or it lost its mind.
But so far, the gamble seems to be paying off.
"There was no scenario where we thought we would immediately replace Wheel and Jeopardy’s ratings," says Bob Sullivan, vice president of content at Scripps TV station group. "We have to rebuild the time periods. But we’re almost to goal in terms of what we thought we’d be doing — about 88% to estimate and we’re only six weeks into our first year.”
America had a 2.3 household rating in the week of Oct. 29 for the six markets where it airs in prime access, based on Nielsen live-plus-same-day ratings. It had a 1.0 among women 25-54 and a 0.8 among adults 25-54. The demo rating goals are between a 1.0 and 1.5.
“If we are consistently hitting our ratings goals in adults and women 25-54, we’re financially ahead of the game,” Sullivan says.
Sullivan concedes that the time slot ratings are two-thirds from where they were when Wheel and Jeopardy filled them. But it's not just about ratings, it's about making money, he says. "We have all the inventory. So, we have more ads to sell. And the audience we are attracting is a more targeted audience for advertisers.”
Last week, Let’s Ask America wrapped up production on its first season’s 170 episodes. They will air through next summer, when production on season two will begin.
If the show continues to do well, and make money, it's likely that Warner Bros. will soon start selling the show to non-Scripps stations. Scripps and Warner Bros.’ Telepictures are 50-50 partners on Let’s Ask America. Warner Bros. has not announced its distribution plans for the show.
The List isn't keeping pace with America, but Sullivan says he still has confidence in it. “We’re about 70% to our estimates for the first year,” he says. “We got off to a good start and we’ve maintained it.”
So far in the November sweeps, The List has a 1.0 household rating on WMAR Baltimore, a 1.5 on KNXV Phoenix, a 2.4 each on WEWS Cleveland and WFTS Tampa, a 2.6 on KJRH Tulsa, Okla., and a 3.8 on WCPO Cincinnati.
On the show, a group of hosts count down the day’s biggest pop culture stories and most popular online videos.
The stations that picked up Wheel and Jeopardy in the seven Scripps markets are happy to have them. They are averaging year-to-year time slot increases of about 150%. Both are distributed by CBS Television Distribution.
“The ratings are through the roof,” says Bill Lanesey, general manager at Raycom Media’s Fox affiliate WXIX Cincinnati. In fact, they are three times what they were when the Fox affiliate carried news and The Simpsons in the slots.
“We realize it’ll take time for ratings to get back to where they were on [Scripps'] WCPO, but we’re barely two months into this. Our expectations are being met.”