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New Network Talkers Hold Serve

CBS’ 'The Talk' and ABC’s 'The Chew' cost less than soaps, and rate just as well 12/05/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

Soap opera fans would be wise to shift their
affections to talk. With far better economics
and very similar ratings performances, talk
shows appear to be here to stay, while soap
operas are increasingly difficult to justify.

The broadcast networks’ new talk
shows—CBS’ The Talk, ABC’s The Chew and
its coming The Revolution—cost 35% to
40% less to produce than the soaps they are
replacing, according to multiple industry
sources. With only one set, less-expensive
talent, fewer guilds to contend with and
fewer weeks of original production, talk
shows make much better economic sense
in today’s TV environment.

In the past year, ABC cancelled All My
and replaced it with The Chew,
while CBS cancelled Guiding Light and replaced
it with The Talk. This January, ABC
will end One Life to Live and launch The
, leaving the network with only
one continuing soap opera, General Hospital.
And that show’s life is endangered:
Of The Chew, The Revolution and General
, only two can remain on the air
to make room for Katie Couric’s new talk
show next fall.

The granddaddy—
or grandmother, if
you will—of the current
crop of talkers is
ABC’s The View, which
launched in 1997.

Looking across 32
metered markets in
October, The View averaged
a 3.2 rating/12
share among households,
making it competitive
with Warner
Bros.’ Ellen at a 3.8/12
in those markets, and
Disney/ABC Television’s
Live! With Regis
and Kelly
at a 2.8/10,
according to Nielsen
Media Research. The View also ties CBS Television
Distribution’s Dr. Phil, syndication’s new talk leader,
and Sony’s Dr. Oz as the highest-rated daytime talker
among the key women 25-54 demographic, averaging
a 1.6 season-to-date.

“One big difference between primetime and daytime
is that you really have to have more patience,”
says Brian Frons, ABC president of daytime. “In daytime,
people have made a lot of habits, and it’s hard
to alert them to what’s new. The View certainly didn’t
launch with those ratings. It took years to grow. Right
now, The Chew is trying to find that growth.”

The Chew
premiered on Sept. 26 and features
a panel of three well-known professional chefs—
Mario Batali, Michael Symon and Carla Hall—as well
as lifestyle expert Clinton Kelly and nutritionist (and
Dr. Oz’s daughter) Daphne Oz.

According to ABC, the show has been inching up a
bit each week since launch. In the week ended Nov.
14, The Chew hit series highs for the sixth consecutive
week among all viewers (2.38 million), women 25-54
(701,000) and women 18-49 (521,000).

Also during that week, The Chew beat All My Children’s
performance in the same week last year by
1% among total viewers. Among women 18-49 and
women 25-54, The Chew was down 8% and 12%, respectively,
approximately one-tenth of a ratings point
in both cases.

That performance—coupled with significantly lower
production costs—is good enough to get ABC’s vote of
confidence, says Frons: “I would expect it to come back.”
Stations also are comfortable with the show’s performance.
The Chew is performing comparably
to the soap opera that it replaced,” says
Mike Devlin, general manager of Belo’s WFAA
Dallas. “Let’s give it some time. I think that
cast is starting to gel, and I’m seeing some
positive growth in the ratings.”

CBS’ The Talk, now in its second season, also
seems to be hitting its stride. Last fall, The Talk
replaced Guiding Light; this season, it reshuffled its panel a bit, letting go of Leah Remini
and Holly Robinson Peete and replacing them
with Sheryl Underwood and Aisha Tyler. Show
creator Sara Gilbert, Julie Chen and Sharon
Osbourne all remain on the show, with Osbourne
appearing less regularly.

In 30 metered markets in October, The Talk
averaged a 1.4 rating/5 share among households.
The show is up 25% in share in households
and " at among both women 25-54 and
women 18-49.

Like The Chew, those ratings may seem low,
but because The Talk is performing equivalently
to the show it replaced at a much lower
cost, it’s a win for the network. The Talk also
has been sold internationally
111 markets, and
has improved the
time period among
women 25-54 on
all of the CBSowned

“In a relatively
short time, the
show has established
a brand identity,
solid ratings
and makes a profit.
That’s a pretty
good start,” says a
CBS spokesperson.

What’s more, The
is part of CBS’
overall strategy to transform its daytime from a money
loser into a profit center.

“Five to seven years ago, our daytime —just our
daytime—was losing approximately $25 million,”
CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves told analysts at the
Bank of America Merrill Lynch media conference in
September. “This year, we’re going to make over $100
million. That’s from renegotiation, bringing down the
cost of certain things, changing programs, getting
more economical and selling [the daypart] better.”

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