With Summer Originals, The Ratings Heat Is On

Talk tune-in better when shows produce new episodes

palbiniak@gmail.com | @PaigeA

The talk shows that can boast this summer’s steadiest ratings are
those that have remained in original production: Disney/ABC Television’s Live! With Kelly and Michael,
Disney/ABC’s Katie and Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams.

Why This Matters
With daytime talk among the toughest  genres in television,  syndicators are looking for any edge possible.

Typically strong shows—CTD’s
Dr. Phil
, Warner Bros.’ Ellen,
NBCU’s Steve Harvey—have
seen their ratings shrink as a result
of repeats, although that’s typical in the summer.

Live!, which remains in originals 48 weeks of
the year, is up 4% this summer to a 2.5 liveplus-
same-day household average, according
to Nielsen Media Research, compared to May,
when it was averaging a 2.4. Katie—which produced
39 weeks of originals in its rookie season,
five weeks more than the industry
standard—is managing to hold steady
May to July at a 1.7. Wendy Williams
is up 8% in July to a 1.3, but up a
huge 63% this July compared to last
July, when the show was in repeats
and turning in a 0.8 in households.

Meanwhile, Dr. Phil is down 10% from May
to a 2.7 from a 3.0; Ellen has fallen 24% to a
1.9 from May’s 2.5; and Steve Harvey is off
20% since May to a 1.2 from a 1.5. Harvey,
however, added one-tenth of a ratings point in
the week ending July 21 to hit a 1.3 in a week
of all-original episodes.

Rewards Vs. Realities

Those ratings trends beg the question: Will
more talk shows stay in originals in the summertime
in order to reap the ratings rewards?

The answer is probably not, although syndicators
decide on a case-by-case basis.

“It’s a logistics question and an economics
question,” says Bill Carroll, VP, programming,
Katz Television Group. “If they are able to figure
out the logistics and have some episodes to
run in the summer, then I think we’ll see more
of that. From an economics standpoint, I don’t
think you are going to see many shows producing
more weeks of programming, they’ll just be
scheduled more strategically.”

Debmar-Mercury decided to keep Wendy
in original production through July
because the show has been on a growth trend.
Since December, the Wendy ratings have been
inching up, and the syndicator credits some of
that growth to extending the show’s opening
monologue, “Hot Topics,” in which Williams
spends 20 minutes or so riffing on the day’s pop
culture news.

The downside of “Hot Topics,” however, is
that it also makes the show so current that when
the show heads into repeats, fans really feel it.
Debmar-Mercury wanted to keep Wendy fresh
throughout as much as the summer as possible
to see if it could keep momentum until the season
five premiere on Monday, Sept. 16.

“[Staying in originals has] paid off,” says
Debmar-Mercury copresident Mort Marcus.
“It’s brought more attention and more credibility
to the show.”

It also has helped the Fox Television Stations,
which own the show in top markets. Fox this
summer is testing both Twentieth’s Kris Jenner
and Warner Bros.’ The Real. Original episodes
of Wendy Williams are leading into one or the
other of those shows in many markets.

Says Marcus, “the stations are very happy
that we are doing this.” Even so, the related
expense doesn’t mean all syndicators will keep
their talk shows in originals year-round.