Talkers Sweep Up Season With Feel-Good Vibes

May sweeps characterized by contests, charity and remotes
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This May, Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan are headed to Disneyland. Rachael Ray will complete a yearlong goal of donating 9 million meals to food pantries and soup kitchens. And Ellen DeGeneres will give away only the best in baby gear to first-time expectant mothers.

It’s all about attracting the most eyeballs during the final major sweeps period of the 2014-15 TV season, which started on April 23 and runs through May 20, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Most daytime producers feel the same way about sweeps these days as Michael Gelman, executive producer of Disney-ABC’s Live With Kelly and Michael, does: “We are in sweeps mode every day of the year.”

That said, May marks the end of predominantly original episodes for many syndicated shows, so producers work to produce some of the season’s most compelling episodes during these four weeks, along with the November and February sweeps periods. There’s also a sweeps in July but with most shows in repeats, little attention is paid to that one.

Headed into May, CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil continues to lead the pack, but it’s been a back-and-forth battle all season to stay ahead of Live. Both shows are up 3% year-to-year in households and 6% among daytime’s key demographic of women 25-54, ahead of all talkers.

“I’m a competitor and I always want to be doing even better, but in this day and age when people are happy even to be down a little bit, I’m excited that we’re doing so well, especially against the afternoon shows,” says Gelman. Live’s hosts—Ripa and Strahan—just won Daytime Emmys in the category of Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host.

This May, Live will honor teachers with its sixth annual Top Teacher Week from May 4-8. The show has been taking nominations on its website and Facebook page, and then narrowed those to four finalists, who will appear on the show that week.

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“People love honoring teachers and they can’t really get enough recognition,” says Gelman. “They are not the highest-paid people in the world but they are really working with our most valuable commodity—our kids.”

On May 8, Live will name their pick for this year’s top teacher.

Live also will travel to Disneyland for a week of remote shows celebrating the park’s 60th anniversary. While Disney is Live’s corporate parent, it wasn’t always so, and Gelman says the show has had a long-running relationship with Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., and Disneyworld in Orlando, Fla.

The park’s close proximity to Los Angeles means lots of celebrities can take the trip to appear on Live, including Christina Aguilera, Mariah Carey and Jimmy Kimmel. The week will feature a look at the park’s history, with celebrities offering their childhood memories of Disneyland; and live musical performances.

“The bigger problem is that we can’t fit in everything that we want to do,” says Gelman.

Rachael Ray is staying put for the sweeps, but she’s finishing out a couple of yearlong campaigns. She, her staff and her audience will donate the remaining meals to get to nine million to meet Ray’s goal—in concert with her charitable organization Yum-O—of donating #9MillionMeals, as the hashtag suggests, to food pantries and soup kitchens this TV season.

“Charity is part of the fabric of who Rachael is and what this show is,” says Janet Annino, Rachael Ray executive producer. “We’re encouraging viewers to get out there and make a difference.”

The Biggest Loser’s Bob Harper will appear on May 19 to reveal who among the show’s “Weight Loss Warriors” achieved their goal of losing 50 pounds over the course of the season.

Speaking of which, Rachael Ray also partnered with Live’s Strahan to encourage Strahan’s mom to lose weight. If she met her goal, Strahan pledged to buy her a new wardrobe. Viewers will find out whether Mrs. Strahan made it on May 15.

“Dr. Ian Smith has worked on our show for the past few seasons, and he’s a good friend of the Strahan family,” says Annino. “Michael asked Ian to help them, and Ian talked to us about it. The Strahans have been delightful. They are just funny people.”

A cross-promotion involving Ray and Strahan makes sense—even though the two shows are produced by different companies—because Live and Rachael Ray air back-to-back in many top markets, including New York and Philadelphia, on ABC owned stations.

Another daytime talker that enjoys making people feel good through giveaways—Warner Bros.’ The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which the Daytime Emmys named Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show—will host its annual Mother’s Day baby shower on May 8, giving first-time expectant mothers lots of gifts. Ellen also is honoring teachers and deserving viewers, awarding a total of $500,000 throughout the May sweeps.

This May, Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan are headed to Disneyland. Rachael Ray will complete a yearlong goal of donating 9 million meals to food pantries and soup kitchens. And Ellen DeGeneres will give away only the best in baby gear to first-time expectant mothers.

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