Syndication Ratings: Ellen Gains in Oprah vs. Oprah Match Up

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Oprah Winfrey’s toughest competition during the week ended Feb. 25 was none other than Oprah Winfrey.

Making a rare, pre-taped, multi-segment guest appearance on Warner Bros.’ rival Ellen DeGeneres Show in honor of the host emceeing the Oscars, Ellen had the biggest—and only—ratings spike of any syndicated talk show during the third full week of the sweeps.

Winfrey’s Feb. 22 appearance sent ratings for Ellen soaring 43%, from to 3.3 from a 2.3 the prior Thursday, giving the show its highest single-day numbers ever.

For the entire week, Ellen popped 8% to 2.7, with the 4-season-old talker setting a season high and tying an all-time series high achieved in 2005 and again last year.

With no good deed going unpunished, the gesture may have cost King World’s top-rated Oprah two-tenths of a rating point for the week and led to the biggest decline of any talk show (down 14% from the previous frame to 6.5).

With the two programs competing head-to-head in 14 metered markets, Oprah scored its lowest rating of the week, 6.1, on Feb. 22. It had started the week with a 7.0, followed by a 7.1 Tuesday, 6.3 Wednesday and 6.2 Friday (for a four-day average of 6.7)

Anticipation surrounding DeGeneres’ stint as Oscar host Feb. 25 (followed the next day by her appearing on Winfrey’s Academy Awards special from Hollywood) and a strong guest lineup would have provided DeGeneres’ show with a 2.6 for the week, even without Winfrey.

Ellen’s week-to-week and year-to-year ratings surge stood in contrast to others in the chat genre, where six declined for the week and two, NBC Universal’s Maury (2.7) and Jerry Springer (1.9), remained flat. All eight were down versus the year-ago week.

All of syndication was struck by mild weather sweeping the Eastern U.S. and a cable news cycle that was 26% devoted to the Anna Nicole Smith story and the antics of Judge Larry Seidlin, who was presiding over the audition, er, case.

Viewing levels dropped by more than 2.5 million from the previous week, when the East Coast was blanketed by severe weather.

Talk was not the only syndicated segment to suffer. All seven court and four game shows declined week-to-week. And the magazines came down from their Smith-induced highs.

CBS’ Entertainment Tonight lost 9% to 6.0 after recording its biggest ratings in more than three years. It was still its third highest-rated week of the season and up 9% over its season-to-date average and 11% from a year ago.

Inside Edition, also from CBS, hit a 3.8, off 10% but up 9% for the season and 6% from last year.

The third CBS entry in the magazine trio, The Insider (2.9) declined 9% from a record high the previous week and 3% for the year but gained 7% over its season-to-date average.

NBCU’s Access Hollywood, at 2.9, was 6% lower but up 7% for the season and 26% from a year earlier.

And Warner Bros.’ Extra remained even at 2.5 and up 14% for the season (there are no year-to-year comparisons, since it was heavily preempted in February 2006 by the Winter Olympics).