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‘Ellen,’ ‘Wilkos’ See Year-to-Year Gains

‘Oprah,’ ‘Dr. Phil’ Not So Lucky to Date

While talk shows aren’t immune to the ratings declines being seen in syndication, some standouts, including Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution’s “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and NBC Universal Television Distribution’s “The Steve Wilkos Show,” have recorded gains year-to-year.

“Ellen,” in its sixth season, posted an average 2.2 Nielsen Media Research season-to-date household rating as of the week ending Dec. 21, which is a 5% increase over the previous year.

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The show has gained traction this season thanks to a new studio as well as some additional exposure from the publicity surrounding Ms. DeGeneres’ marriage to actress Portia de Rossi last summer.

For the week of Dec. 21, which featured the strip’s “12 Days of Christmas” gift giveaway shows, “Ellen” drew a 2.7 household average, tying a series high.

Two other big syndicated programs, CBS Television Distribution’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and “Dr. Phil,” bounded downwards.

Genre leader “Oprah” dipped 11% to a 5.0 household rating, while “Dr. Phil”—which currently has one of the highest rates of decline—was off 28% to a 3.4.

NBC Universal’s “The Martha Stewart Show” is down by the largest margin, 36%, to a 0.7, although it was renewed for the 2009-10 season in early December.

Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Television Group, said “Dr. Phil’s” drop-off could be due to a multitude of reasons, including increased competition from cable, declines in overall viewership or counterprogramming by local newscasts during a very news-heavy year.

“That said, many, myself included, are concerned about ‘Dr. Phil’s’ performance, especially since it is one of the most expensive series in daytime,” Mr. Carroll said. “These declines will be part of the market-by-market discussions as the series has renewal conversations, not that the program is in jeopardy, but the pricing will be a factor in the renewals.”

The only other show to post an increase from last year is “Steve Wilkos,” which was up 11% from its premiere season last year to a 1.0. NBCU stablemate and “Wilkos” parent program “The Jerry Springer Show” was down 23% to a 1.0.

Among freshman shows, CBS Television Distribution’s “The Doctors” has held steady as one of the season’s new success stories with a 1.5 household rating season-to-date. The only other first-year talk show series, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution’s “The Bonnie Hunt Show,” has averaged a 0.9 household rating.

There is one casualty already in this syndie class: Twentieth Television has decided not to renew “The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet.” Twentieth said economic pressures were behind its decision to pull the plug on the low-rated talk show.

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