Syndication: 'Rachael Ray' Triumphs, 'Mullally' Holds Her Own

The syndication business just got a jolt. And you can thank Rachael Ray. She helms the new daytime hit King World Production's "Every Day with Rachael Ray."

The Food Network food maven-turned-daytime-syndication host cooked up an eye-opening 2.8 rating/9 share on her first day--the best debut of a syndicated show since King World's daytime hit "Dr. Phil" started in 2002.

"Ray" was up 17 percent from its lead-in average programming of 2.4/8; it also soared 33 percent in time periods versus a year ago, which averaged a 2.1/7. The show scored even better numbers than Warner Bros.' "Ellen," which posted an early 2.1 rating in September. Of course, "Ellen" had some tough competitive time period upgrades that put her head-to-head against "Oprah Winfrey."

Ray counted a lot on Winfrey, since Ray strategically appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" during the last year to promote her upcoming new show. The promotional pattern was similar to the one Winfrey provided Dr. Phil, who was a regular on her show for years. Winfrey's opinion counts among viewers, say TV program analysts.

Some analysts warn that the numbers for "Ray" are early, and advise caution.

"Given her first day's numbers, it is a hit; and there is potential for a [long-term] hit," says Bill Carroll, vice president of director of programming for national TV sales rep, Katz Televison Group. "Tuesday's numbers should be better. Oprah was a guest on the show. So she'll have a good first-week number. Then, in two or three weeks, we'll have a good idea where she settles in."

NBC Universal Television Distribution's new daytimer "Megan Mullally" earned an average rating for a new daytime syndication hour, with a 1.2 rating/4 share. These numbers were down 8 percent from its lead-in, and off 14 percent versus the 1.4/5 average numbers in time periods of a year ago. Still, of the six new first-run strips, "Megan" ranked second in the overnights yesterday.

Other new daytimers were lower.

Warner Bros.' "Dr. Keith Ablow" only posted a 1.0/3 for his first week--the show was down 17 percent from both its lead-in and year-ago time period averages. Sony Pictures Television's "Greg Behrendt" premiered even lower, averaging a 0.7/2--sinking 42 percent off of its lead-in and time-period averages of a year ago.

"To be fair to them, those shows have challenging time periods. Both shows either started on or around Sept. 11," says Katz's Carroll.

Returning daytime talkers--specifically other King World shows--had a lot to cheer about. "Dr. Phil" started his fifth season with a strong 4.9/12--up a big-time 96 percent over its average lead-in, and 11 percent higher over time periods of a year ago, which were mostly his show.

"Oprah Winfrey" posted big numbers, too--a 7.6/19, up 90 percent from its lead-in and 19 percent higher from its year-ago time period average.

Buena Vista Television launched two off-net sitcoms to middling numbers. "According to Jim" premiered with a 1.4/3--down 13 percent from its lead-in and 26 percent from its year-ago time period average. "Scrubs" also debuted on Monday with a lower 1.0/2.

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