And they’re off… Off-Network sitcom races begins

Anderson shows some growth; other new first-run entries struggle

The race for freshman off-network sitcom supremacy began  yesterday with several new entries.

Warner Bros. The Big Bang Theory – which stations paid big bucks for – and the all-barter 30 Rock from NBCUniversal opened to mostly tepid results. According to numbers provided by Broadcasting & Cable (and buried deep within the article), Big Bang premiered to a 1.8 household rating and a 3 household share according to Nielsen, while 30 Rock opened to a 0.8/2 in households.

Locally, Big Bang and 30 Rock air opposite each other in both access and late fringe: at 6:30 p.m., 30 Rock airs on Tribune-owned WGN-TV while Big Bang airs on Fox-owned WPWR. The two go head-to-head again at 10 p.m., but with Big Bang airing on sister station WFLD-TV instead.

While both premieres appeared to open soft, keep in mind this is only the first day and most off-net sitcoms tend to grow in the ratings week-to-week when the weather gets colder and HUT levels creep up. Another thing to keep in mind: syndicators care more about the national ratings for the shows rather than local station performances, as the national numbers are usually cumed with the rating numbers from cable runs to sell to advertisers.

Also, Big Bang and 30 Rock faced stiff competition for young viewers in access slots from syndicated newsmagazine shows such as Entertainment Tonight, Access: Hollywood, and Extra, which devoted much of their coverage to the previous night’s Emmy Awards.

Meanwhile, two more off-net sitcoms joined the weekday syndication grind yesterday: Twentieth Television’s all-barter airings of American Dad!, which entered syndication last year with weekend-only airings, and FX hit Its Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Ratings for yesterday’s weekday premiere on both shows were not available.  Dad! airs weeknights at 8:30 p.m. on WCIU-TV while Philadelphia airs at midnight and 1 a.m. on WPWR.

Yet another off-net sitcom (Til Death) made its debut last week – but the former Fox sitcom didn’t score yesterday with the series averaging only a 0.2/1 in households. Death is dying every weekday at 4 on WCIU-DT 26.2 (UToo).

As for first-run strips, Anderson leads the freshman pack with the Warner Bros.-syndicated talk show showing growth week-to-week. But other new entries that debuted last week (Excused and We The People) have not gotten off to good starts, with both series averaging well under an one rating.

Yesterday, two more syndicated strips debuted – Debmar-Mercury’s Jeremy Kyle and Tribune’s The Bill Cunningham Show, which is being rolled out only on Tribune-owned stations and WXIX-TV in Cincinnati, the home of the latter’s radio show. In Chicago, Cunningham premiered to a 1.6/4 household rating on WGN-TV at 2 p.m., but did a 0.9/3 nationally.

Jeremy Kyle’s debut only earned a 0.6/2 across the metered markets – not exactly a  good start for the British Morton Downey Jr.