Self-helper grabs spotlight

Dr. Phil debut beats expectations, gives several stations a ratings boost

Dr. Phil,
the much-anticipated daytime talker met, and beat, all expectations in its opening week, kicking off Monday with a 5.2 rating/14 share and boasting No. 1 rankings in 35 of the top metered markets. Tuesday's follow-up held steady with a 5.0/14, keeping the all-important share number even with the day before.

"That's very good when you consider how high the number was for day one," says one analyst. "The fact that it didn't sink significantly has to be looked at as a big plus. The day-two numbers would seem to indicate that day one for Dr. Phil
was not a fluke."

And Wednesday's number, the latest available at press time, made self-help guru show Dr. Phil
look like a bona fide hit with the biggest rating so far, a 5.3/15.

It made stations happy, too. In San Francisco, NBC-affiliate-turned-independent KRON-TV, Dr. Phil,
at 8 p.m., beat the networks in prime time Wednesday and, as a lead-in, boosted the 9 p.m. news' ratings 31%. "It has dramatically overachieved against some excellent programming," said General Manager Dino Dinovitz.

Brooke Spectorsky, general manager at Gannett's Cleveland NBC affiliate, WKYC-TV, called Dr. Phil's performance "phenomenal." The station, which had been badly trailing competing 6 p.m. newscasts, tied for second and made it a far more competitive news race. The newscast went from 5.0/10 in July to 7.0/15-8.8/19 last week.

At Post-Newsweek's KPRC-TV Houston, General Manager Steve Wasserman called the show "a shot in the arm for us." The station's 4 p.m. news trails Oprah
and a newscast on KTRK-TV but quickly became a contender in the slot—even beating both Oprah
and KTRK-TV one day last week.

With Harpo Productions creating the show, Paramount Domestic Television producing and King World distributing, Dr. Phil
hads a lot of cooks stirring the pot.

"To get together with three major companies and agree on anything is a very difficult process," says Roger King, CEO of CBS Enterprises and King World Productions Inc.

Greg Meidel, president of programming for Paramount Domestic Television is already looking ahead. "We're doing everything we can to secure a fabulous November, February and May sweeps."

With appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show
every Tuesday for four years and four best-selling books, Dr. Phil McGraw is a known quantity. "Dr. Phil is a brand," Meidel says. "He works because he is the concept and he is the content."

Dr. Phil's splashy arrival overshadowed the debuts of four other syndie shows: two more talkers and two game shows. Sony's Pyramid
and Buena Vista's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? had solid debuts, with Pyramid
holding a little more steadily.

Pyramid, hosted by Donny Osmond, debuted with a 2.1/5 and followed up with a 2.1/6 and a 1.9/5. Millionaire, hosted by The View's Meredith Vieira, logged a 3.1/7, at which BVT executives were ecstatic. On Tuesday and Wednesday, though, the show dropped to a 2.8/6 each day. On Wednesday, that was a 22% decrease from its lead-in. Lloyd Komaser, senior vice president of Buena Vista Television, attributes the decline to the enormous boost Dr. Phil
gave the lead-in in top markets, such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Dallas. "Overall, I think Millionaire's doing very well."

The two other talkers had much more trouble with their starts. Twentieth's The Rob Nelson Show
launched with a 1.0/4 and followed up with a 0.8/3 and a 0.9/3, while Tribune's Beyond With James Van Praagh
stepped out with a 0.8/3 and basically stayed there.

—Additional reporting by Dan Trigoboff

Rookies' first three days
Source: Nielsen local metered markets
Dr. Phil(Paramount)5.2/145.0/145.3/15
The Rob Nelson Show(Twentieth)1.0/40.8/30.9/3
Beyond W/ Van Praagh(Tribune)0.8/30.8/30.9/3