In its 19th season, The Oprah Winfrey Show is scoring its highest ratings since 1996. In November sweeps, Oprah gave its stations No. 1 finishes among households in 90% of markets, women 18-49 in 97% of markets and women 25-54 in 96%.
“The show just clean swept everything. Its numbers were so much higher than any of its competitors,” says Moira Coffey, King World senior vice president of research. Normally, her job during sweeps is to “earmark” troubled markets for producers to focus on later. In Oprah's case, “I didn't have any.”
What is even more impressive is that, for the first time ever, Oprah is No. 1 in all of syndication among women 18-49 and 25-54.
“The show defies all principles of television and the way things work in the television universe today,” Coffey says.
Coffey, King World CEO Roger King and Winfrey attribute the ratings climb in large part to Ellen Rakieten, who took over as the show's executive producer two years ago.
“Adding new blood put new life into the television show,” King says. “Oprah's now doing classic shows outside the ratings period. She puts prime time shows in daytime.”
While Oprah spinoff Dr. Phil works its way into 5 p.m. and prime time slots, Winfrey prefers to stay where she is.
King says Oprah and Dr. Phil are proof-positive that daytime TV shows can do better than the 2.0 household rating that has become the time period's de facto cap. King likes to take shots at syndicators that say no daytime shows will ever do greater than a 1.2.
“That's a give-up attitude,” he says. “Oprah's going to spawn another television show out of her show, and it will do a 4 or a 5 rating.” That show isn't necessarily the program that Winfrey's production company, Harpo, is said to be developing with designer Nate Berkus, but it might be. Berkus narrowly escaped death from the tsunami that hit pan-Asia the day after Christmas, and his lover was killed. Winfrey feels Berkus may need time to heal.
“Oprah does it the old-fashioned way: She tries it and tests it until it's perfect,” King says, citing Dr. Phil as an example. “It's not like we hid the secret. You don't have to have a map to find this treasure.”