The Real Post-‘Oprah’ Era Opportunity
Stations looking to fill talk legend’s time slots with lower-cost shows
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/29/2010 12:00:00 AM
“Oprah’s ratings have eroded so much that the image of Oprah is much stronger than the reality of Oprah, either as a news lead-in or as a money-maker,” says one station executive. “In many cases, Oprah is a stunning loss leader. There are people who are deeply thankful she is calling it quits.”
Some solid new syndie performers have debuted in recent seasons, and syndication hopefuls continue to campaign for new projects, such as the Rosie O’Donnell vehicle that former Warner Bros. bigwigs Dick Robertson and Scott Carlin are pitching. But no heir apparent exists—for Oprah’s time slot, viewers or license fees.
“Once Oprah leaves, her viewers are going to be dispersed and they aren’t going to go to some new show,” says a top syndication executive. “It will be a bit of musical chairs in a way. I don’t think it’s an unbelievably huge opportunity.”
Insiders expect daytime audiences to turn to established shows, such as Warner Bros.’ Ellen, Sony Pictures TV’s Dr. Oz or CTD’s Dr. Phil, to get their talk fix. Several of the ABC-owned stations that now air Oprah intend to replace that show with local newscasts, which are unlikely to get Oprah-sized ratings but are far cheaper, according to reports. The ABC network also is reportedly considering moving its daytime talk panel, The View, to the afternoon or taking it off the network and selling it in syndication. ABC declined to comment.
Oprah no longer draws the kind of ratings it did in its heyday: From 2004 to 2009, the show’s ratings fell 35% among households and 43% among adults 18- 49. That’s refl ective of daytime’s overall state, which has seen ratings fragment. Depressed ratings mean less money, which is why no show in the past year has sold for any signifi cant cash. Sony sold Nate Berkus to NBC’s station groups for $100,000 per week, while Warner Bros.’ renewal of Ellen on that same group was in the neighborhood of $250,000 per week. By comparison, Oprah receives approximately $250,000 per week from KABC Los Angeles alone.
Stations are unable to pay big license fees even if they wanted to, and with daytime ratings so small, no syndicated show is likely to see Oprah money again. According to Bill Carroll, VP of programming for Katz Media Group: “What syndicators are really going for when Oprah leaves isn’t replacing her show, but upgrading theirs.”
Oprah Winfrey has been a project of mine for the last 3 years.
I have kept abreast of her ratings, her move to Cable Television and any other pertinent news.
I agree that her talk show is suffering from competition that was non existent in 1985, the Internet, and a multitude of other broadcast choices on TV in the afternoon.
I disagree with the opinion that her clout has increased as her ratings have decreased. In the last 2 years her overall income has decreased, her position as most influencial celebrity has chnged, being replaced by Angelina Jolie, her position has most liked talk show host has also disintigrated, having been replaced by Ellen D.
If you watch her show, even sporadically, you will also note that the old Oprah, is gone. You see an overweight middle age woman who is resting on her laurels, and does not really have much to say about anything.
Her current efforts to stabilize her ratings has been to interview people who are front page news. Her talks with Whitney Houston, Mackenzie Phillips, Sarah Palin, and recently the Oscar winners were less than scintillating. We are now subjected to a discussion style where Oprah repeats the last comment of her guests and waits for them to go on...
I agree with the statement 'the image has yet to catch up with the reality'.
Americans love their icons, Oprah has had a tremendously successful and long term TV career. But nothing lasts forever.
Lisa Quinn - 4/6/2010 11:07:50 AM EDT
As a statistician and media analyst I find it interesting that many industry executives speak about the decline in Oprah's ratings as evidence of a decline in Oprah's audience and reach. When Oprah started as talk show the Internet, cell phone, social networking were not established respected media outlets. Part of creating reputable equations to answer and provide insights is to create a well designed question: which is has a decline in ratings for the Oprah talk show meant a decline in Oprah, the brand, influence. And before one undertakes any serious analysis, we can undoubtedly say no. For as Oprah's ratings have declined, her brand's influence and reach has increased, domestically and internationally. Evidence is the successful spinoff of Dr. Phil, Rachel Ray, Dr. Oz. Moreover, Oprah now has a wildly successful magazine with a 2.3 million reach, along with an international edition of the magazine, a website with millions of hits daily and a 24/7 radio channel. Every book she has endorsed turns into a best seller, and nearly every product she touches experiences a sustained growth in sales. So all of the media talk that implies that a decline in ratings of the Oprah show equals and/or means that Oprah is losing her audience has been greatly exaggerated and misleading. Oprah actually reaches and influences more people (and a wider audience other than middle aged females) today than she did at the height of her show. The actual challenge (and failure) of the Oprah brand has been its inability to unite and harness the strength of its multi platform media properties. If it could strategically syndicate content across its platforms, it would deliver a powerful opportunity to any advertiser seeking to tap into one of the most trusted brands in media history with an unparalleled domestic and international reach.
Patrick Christofer Riley - 3/30/2010 5:46:42 AM EDT
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