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Did Video Promos Boost Jerry Springer Ratings?

One area of recent speculation among marketers of videotapes is whether the DRTV campaign for the “Jerry Springer Too Hot for TV” videotape helped to boost ratings of the syndicated talk show during the February sweeps.

“The Jerry Springer Show,” known for the ribald antics of its trash-talking guests, boasted a 160 percent jump in its ratings over the previous February with an average 7.8 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research data. One rating point equals 980,000 households.

That figure was not enough to beat the rival “Oprah Winfrey Show,” whose viewership slumped about 4 percent to an average 8.3 rating for February. Although “Oprah” won the month, “Springer” managed to post two winning weeks during that period.

What is interesting to ratings watchers is that “Oprah” did not seem to be helped last month by the widespread publicity surrounding Winfrey's legal battle with Texas cattlemen who had sued her for making allegedly defamatory remarks about red meat.

The “Oprah” slump alongside the “Springer” jump has led DRTV industry observers to wonder: Did the DRTV campaign for the “Jerry Springer Too Hot for TV” videotape pump up the show's ratings?

The marketer of the videotapes, which feature tasteless and tawdry outtakes from the talk show, downplayed the possibility of a correlation.

“While there's no direct correlation between direct response campaigns and television ratings,” said Darren Howell, vice president of marketing at Real Entertainment in Los Angeles, “the fact there were so many consumer impressions can't hurt. People are seeing spots at all times during the day and getting the 'Jerry Springer' message.”

Real Entertainment has sold in excess of 500,000 copies of the videotape since Sept. 29, he said. The DRTV spot offers the collection of outtakes for $19.95. Two telemarketing upsells for more videotapes are marketed at $29.95 and $59.90, depending on the package. The videotapes will be available in retail stores in July, Howell said.

Meanwhile, a representative of “The Jerry Springer Show” said the ratings jump is more likely the result of new ownership. USA Networks Studios, under its former name Universal, bought the show last year from now-defunct syndicator Multimedia Inc., which had been acquired by Gannett Broadcasting. When USA Networks took over, it gave the show more freedom to be outrageous.

“Multimedia and Gannett were always trying to tone the show down,” said Laurie Fried director of creative services at USA Networks in Chicago. “Universal came in and said, 'Just do the show you do; we'll worry about the promotion, the marketing, the stations and the advertisers'.”

The effects on the final edit of the show were dramatic.

“As a result, there's been more of the fights in the show and it's been more cutting edge since Universal took over,” Fried said. “I think that has resulted in the spike in the ratings.”

She said that USA Networks is also giving the show better times, clearances and double airings, all of which help to boost ratings.

“I'm sure those [DRTV] promos have some impact,” she said, “maybe for people who have never looked at the show before. There's a lot of different variable, so it's difficult to determine what's exactly responsible for what.”

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