In all my years of following the syndication business (since 1985, when yours truly at the young age of thirteen read his first NATPE edition of TV/Radio Age), I cannot recall at any time the entire slate of rookie first-run strips that debuted in the fall were renewed for a second season.
In fact, go back to the 1990-91 season, where of the eight first-run strips (not counting kids’ shows) that debuted in September 1990, only one was renewed for the 1991-92 season – and that program (Entertainment Daily Journal, which was known as Personalities until July 1991) was canceled shortly into its second season.
With the surprise renewal of Merv Griffin’s Crosswords, and the likely return of The Steve Wilkos Show, that only leaves Twentieth Television’s Temptation as the only holdout. If Temptation comes back for a second season, it would mark the first time in known memory in which all the rookie first-run strips would return for a second season.
The moves mean that time periods will tighten up even more, and it will be harder than ever for a company to launch a first-run strip.
This comes as ratings for non-prime dayparts are becoming more and more fragmented and HUT levels for daytime television are sinking, making it easier for struggling shows to stay on the air. In San Francisco for example, HUT levels are quite low in daytime – and even a program with a 0.5 rating is considered profitable.
Only three years ago, Sony’s female-targeted Life & Style talk show averaged a 0.4 rating and the plug was pulled midseason. Then again, reported discord among the program’s co-hosts may have played a factor in its demise.
It just goes to show how much the syndication business has changed in the last few years and the dreaded 0.8 rating (Crosswords‘ season average) isn’t the kiss of death it once was.