Regis on a roll

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With at least a handful of her producers shaking their heads at the irony of it all, Kathie Lee's last day snagged a 9.1, the best single national rating ever for Live With Regis and Kathie Lee.

Truly going out with a bang, Kathie Lee also fueled the Buena Vista chat series' best week ever, according to Nielsen Media Research, posting a 5.9-rocketing up 64% from the previous ratings period and a whopping 90% from the same time last year.

What's even more impressive is Live delivered this performance (for the week ending July 30) in most markets at 9 a.m., typically one of the lesser-watched dayparts. Talk's perennial queen, Oprah, secured in higher-trafficked afternoon slots, rang up a 6.1 for the period, beating Live-but not by much.

Bringing Live back down to Earth a bit, the show's viewer surge was older-skewing. The show posted a 7.4 in women 55-plus, compared to a 3.1 in the more attractive women 18-49 demo. In contrast, Oprah grabbed a 3.9 in women 18-49 and 6.9 in women 55-plus.

But back to the good stuff: Live has carried over the Kathie Lee momentum for its first week (July 31-Aug. 4) without her, posting a 5.0/17 share in the averaged metered markets, a 43% ratings climb from last year's comparable period.

That is helpful, considering "it's not etched in stone" when a replacement will be named, says a Buena Vista representative.

An obvious time would be to plug in someone in time for next fall's November sweeps.

"The sense that I get is that there is no rush to make a decision," says Katz TV's Bill Carroll. "Viewers want to be able to say that 'I was there the moment there was chemistry-when Regis looked across his coffee cup and saw that this is someone he would want to spend time with.'"

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