The cancellation of late-night talkfest "The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show" this week is good news for its lower-rated rival, "Vibe."
"It's very hard for two or three of these shows to survive because there aren't that many viewers in late-night," said Steve Sternberg, senior partner of TN Media, a media-buying firm. "When you start having these narrowly focused shows, you're going to split the audience and not get ratings."Both "Vibe," syndicated by Columbia-Tristar, and "Keenen," from Disney, aimed for young, urban viewers - especially women - who tune out the late news.
It seemed like a good idea, but ratings for "Vibe" and "Keenen" fell steadily after August debuts. In the February ratings sweep, "Keenen" was down in every one of the Top 10 markets, "Vibe" in nine.
(In Utah, "Keenen" airs weeknights at 12:30 a.m. on KSTU-Ch. 13. "Vibe" is seen weeknights at 11 on KJZZ-Ch. 14.)
"Vibe" has tried to adjust. Shortly before the November sweep, "Vibe" dropped host Chris Spencer for better-known comic Sinbad. And last week, "Vibe" hired its third executive producer in seven months, former "Geraldo" producer Jose Pretlow.
Russ Krasnoff, Columbia Tri-Star's executive in charge of programming, insists "Vibe" is not in trouble, even though on average it performs 28 percent below the shows it replaced and loses 31 percent of its lead-in audience. That's not much better than "Keenen," which fell 25 percent in time period from a year ago and lost 45 percent of its lead-in.
"Do we wish our household ratings were higher? Sure," Krasnoff said. But, he noted, "Vibe" has the highest proportion of 18-to-34-year-old advertiser-coveted viewers during its time slot.
"We are a big company and we know what we're doing," Krasnoff said. "This is a franchise we've chosen to be in, and we're happy with that decision."
Rick Jacobson, head of Fox's Twentieth Television, which is bringing Magic Johnson's "The Magic Hour" into late-night in June, believes shows aimed exclusively at young, urban audiences are doomed to fail. "They're not broad-based enough to get ratings," he said. "Vibe" and "Keenen" "got some of the audience they sought, but they didn't get enough of that audience to sustain themselves."
"Magic" will be different, he noted. "First and foremost, we are not going to be isolated on any segment of the population," he said. "That doesn't mean you can't be hip and have fun. We want to be inclusionary."