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Will Sajak Please More of the People Less of the Time?

October 14, 1989|DENNIS McDOUGAL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the heels of taking legal action to shorten his name, Patrick Leonard Sajdak had his low-rated TV program shortened Friday.

Beginning Oct. 30, CBS said, "The Pat Sajak Show" will be cut back from 90 minutes to one hour, airing 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

In an unrelated action, the host of "Wheel of Fortune" also petitioned Los Angeles Superior Court this week to drop the d from the name with which he was born, explaining in his legal papers that Sajak is the name he has always used professionally.

Though a spokeswoman for CBS late-night programming chief Rod Perth said he was "in meetings behind closed doors" and unreachable Friday, a prepared statement he released clearly indicated that he hoped a shorter program hosted by the man with the shorter name would result in larger ratings.

"We have decided to shorten 'The Pat Sajak Show' to strengthen the format and tighten the flow," Perth said. Like producers for Sajak's chief rival, "The Tonight Show's" Johnny Carson, and for Arsenio Hall, Perth said CBS had learned after nine months of 90-minute Sajak shows that the hourlong format in a late-night time slot is "much more conducive to a livelier, faster-paced broadcast. . . ."

Since its debut last January, Sajak's show has consistently run well behind NBC and ABC in its time period, averaging a 3.1 rating to NBC's 4.8 and ABC's 4.7. The show has not even been doing that well recently, averaging a 2.7 rating since Sept. 18 and a 2.5 for the week of Oct. 2-6. One rating point is equal to 921,000 homes, according to Nielsen.

At this point last year, CBS' roster of old dramatic series and movies in its late-night slot was pulling a 3.3 rating, compared to 5.2 for NBC and 5 for ABC.

The action shows and movies that CBS has been airing when "Sajak" ended at 1 a.m. will begin at 12:30 a.m. when the show is shortened.

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