'Katie' and 'Steve' Are the Talk, But Vets Dominate Chat Season

'Year of the Talk Show' produces more winners than losers

Updated Monday, May 6, 2013, 3 p.m. ET

The so-called "Year of the Talk Show" is
nearing its close, and while year one was occasionally
rough for rookies, it’s been a surprisingly
strong season for the veterans.

Last fall, five syndicated talkers premiered—Disney/
ABC Televison’s Katie, NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey,
Twentieth’s Ricki Lake, CBS Television Distribution’s Jeff
Probst and NBCU’s Trisha Goddard. Of those, three will
return: Katie, Steve and Trisha. And of those three, only
Katie and Steve are real contenders in the talk race.

Meanwhile, veterans enjoyed a strong season. CTD’s
Dr. Phil secured its place as syndication’s top talker,
averaging a 3.1 live-plus-same-day rating in households,
according to Nielsen Media Research, and was
steady compared to last year. Dr. Phil was also the leader
among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54,
with a 1.8 rating, up 6% from last year.

In second place, Disney/ABC Television’s Live! With Kelly
and Michael
defied TV odds. The show has seen growth
all season long with its choice of former New York Giants
star and current Fox NFL sportscaster Michael Strahan—
a man who could not be less like his predecessor, Regis
Philbin, although both have the gift of gab and warm
sense of humor—as Kelly Ripa’s cohost. That move ended
up revitalizing the show, and year-to-year Live! is steady in
households and up 7% among women 25-54.

“Michael wasn’t the conventional choice, but that’s
one of the things that makes him such a hit,” says
Michael Gelman, executive producer of Live!, which last
week was nominated for three Daytime Emmys, including
outstanding entertainment talk show.

“You have to take your time with these choices, listen to
your gut and don’t treat it like some corporate executive
that you are replacing,” Gelman adds. “You’ve got an audience
who tunes in five days a week and have been watching
your show for years. You can’t take that for granted.”

Warner Bros.’ Ellen, which last week also was nominated
as outstanding entertainment talk show, arguably
turned in its best season yet in year 10. Headed into
the May sweeps, Ellen was up 4% for the year to a 2.6
season-to-date household ratings average, and up 6%
among women 25-54.
“I think it was our best year yet creatively,” says Ed
Glavin, one of Ellen’s executive producers, along with
Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner. “This has been maybe
our favorite year so far. Ellen just gets better and
better at hosting the show.”

Host Ellen DeGeneres “is still enjoying doing the
show as much today, if not more, than when she began,”
adds Connelly. “She’s learned how to really have
fun with this and pace herself.”

Finally, Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz had a tougher
year in the ratings than its top-tier peers, with a 14%
year-to-year drop in households and a 13% decline
among women 25-54 to take fifth behind NBCU’s Maury
and Live!, which are in a tie in that demo at a 1.6.

Oz closed out the year on a high note, with Daytime
Emmy nominations for outstanding informational talk
show and outstanding talk show host. That made Oz
the only network or syndicated talk show to be nominated
in both categories.

Among the rookies, Steve Harvey emerged as this
year’s syndie star.

“The industry believes that the [rookie] talk winner
was Steve Harvey,” says Bill Carroll, VP, director of programming,
Katz Television Group. “The expectations
for the show were met, and in many cases, exceeded.”

Steve Harvey, produced by Endemol USA, launched
at a 1.2 live-plus-same-day household rating and has
grown 25% to a 1.5 season-to-date (through April 14)
average. Among daytime’s key demographic of women
ages 25-54, Harvey is averaging a 1.0, tying Katie and
up 18% from debut.

“Talk show launches are so hard, it’s like fighting a little
war where you’re dodging bullets all the time,” says Alex
Duda, Steve Harvey executive producer. “But Steve is so
focused on what he does. And what you see on TV is what
you get in real life. His common-sense advice combined
with his sense of humor really resonates with people.”

Katie, meanwhile, is the rookie household leader, averaging
a 1.9, which is flat compared to the show’s first two
weeks last September. Among women 25-54, Katie is tied
with Steve Harvey at a 1.0, down 5% since its premiere.

Last week, Harvey was nominated for two daytime Emmys
as outstanding talk show host and outstanding game
show host for Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud, which has
been a ratings blockbuster this season.

NBCU already has secured upgrades for Steve Harvey
in many markets across the country. That could result
in ratings advances next season, but it also means the
show will face stiffer competition against the likes of Dr.
and Dr. Oz at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Katie, meanwhile, will remain in mostly 3 p.m. time
slots across the country. Expectations for its performance
should adjust accordingly.

“Right now, Katie is finding its way,” says Carroll.
“How it does in the May book will be a real indicator
of how much growth there’s been [since the show’s
September debut], and of its ability to deliver new audiences
to the show.”

Katie, which last week joined Dr. Oz and CTD’s The
as daytime Emmy nominees for outstanding informational
talk show, has had some success this year
with big “gets,” such as Notre Dame linebacker Manti
Te’o, who had an online girlfriend who turned out to
be a hoax; the widow of Penn State football coach Joe
Paterno, who passed away last year; and the cast of The
Mary Tyler Moore Show

Katie recently headed to Los Angeles to tape a week of
shows for the May sweeps, with a range of celebs—from
Modern Family’s Eric Stonestreet to New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel
to The Mindy Project’s Mindy Kaling—planning to
stop by and chat and help the show keep delivering.

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