Who Is Primed to Replace ‘Judge Judy’ on the Syndication Throne?

A trio of game shows figure to battle it out after Judy Sheindlin hangs up her robe

Judge Judy Sheindlin has reigned as the Queen of Daytime for more than a decade, with “Judge Judy” presiding over the rest of her syndication competition for the last 11 years. But when she gavels in her new season Monday afternoon, it will be the beginning of the end of 25 years of daytime dominance.

While it’s likely “Judge Judy” will cap off its 25-year run with a 12th consecutive ratings victory, the competition for syndication’s newest King (or Queen) could be a Battle Royale.

“Judge Judy” finished last season with a 6.2 rating, according to Nielsen, and her closest competitors in syndication were all shows that air well after daytime. Game shows “Family Feud,” (6.1 rating) “Jeopardy!” (6.0 rating) and “Wheel of Fortune” (5.8) are all primed to duke it out for syndication supremacy after “Judge Judy” hangs up her robe; all three of those shows air in what Nielsen calls the “early-fringe” period between 6-8 p.m. local time, which leads into primetime.

When it comes to the actual daypart that “Judge Judy” resides in, it will most likely come down to either “Dr. Phil,” (2.2) which has led the syndicated talk show space for nine years in a row, “Live With Kelly and Ryan” (2.0) and “Hot Bench,” (2.0) a courtroom show produced by Sheindlin.

In fact, since “Judge Judy” will air its repeats for several more years, it’s very possible that she’ll still reign atop syndication when accounting for all syndicated shows, which include repeats of popular sitcoms “The Big Bang Theory” and “Modern Family.”

Sheindlin has hosted “Judge Judy” since 1996, netting a mammoth $47 million salary that put her at the top of Forbes’ list of highest-paid TV hosts in 2018. Though she’s ending the show, she has been adamant she’s not retiring. In fact, she teased back in March a new show, “Judy Justice,” which will not be handled by CBS Television Distribution, which owns all 25 years worth of “Judge Judy.”

When she made her announcement back in March on “Ellen” that she would stop filming new “Judge Judy” episodes, she hinted that it wasn’t exactly her decision to end the show. “CBS, I think, sort of felt they wanted to optimally utilize the repeats of my program because now they have 25 years of reruns,” she said.

For “Judy Justice,” she is teaming with former CBS executive Scott Koondel on her new series, which is looking for a streaming partner. So far it has not been a player in the daytime genre.

At least for its part, CBS understands losing new episodes of “Judge Judy” is akin to when Oprah Winfrey signed off her popular talk show in 2011. “There was only one ‘Oprah’ and there will never be another ‘Oprah,’ and there’s only one ‘Judge Judy,’ and there will never be another Judge Judy,” Steve Locascio, president of CBS Television Distribution, told TheWrap.

“Can you try to come up with something else that will be successful and be on the air for 25 years? I don’t know. Will Drew Barrymore be successful?” he continued. “We’d like it to be a franchise and be on the air for a long time, but I don’t think you can ever duplicate any talent like Oprah or Judy or something like that.”

Her debut in 1996 revitalized the courtroom genre in daytime, and competitors are eager to fill that specific void. NBCUniversal launched “Judge Jerry” to the best premiere ratings for a courtroom show in five years last fall.

“I think there’s like 12 or 13 court shows and, and we launched Jerry last year and thankfully we had the beauty of a built-in audience with Jerry Springer. People adore him. And he’s very happy to step into Judy’s role and become the king of the court as she is the queen of the court,” Tracie Wilson, executive vice president, creative affairs for NBCUniversal TV Distribution, says. “People love that genre. It’s storytelling in a very concise way, with a beginning, middle and an end. And I think that type of viewer finds it very satisfying. And, you know, each one of them has their own little angle. And thankfully, ours was Jerry Springer.”

Tim Baysinger

Tim Baysinger

TV Reporter • tim.baysinger@thewrap.com • Twitter: @tim_bays


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