`Dr. Phil’: King World’s prescription for ratings

Dec 31, 2001  •  Post A Comment

To hear Roger King tell it, “Dr. Phil” will be the greatest show in the history of television when it launches in fall 2002. That’s a pretty tall order, but the chairman and CEO of CBS Enterprises and King World Productions believes he has the numbers to back it up.
“I’ve never seen a show get this kind of money in this time period,” he said, adding that 90 percent of the clearances are in the 3 p.m. time slot.
The show will feature Dr. Phil McGraw, the psychologist and author known as Dr. Phil who makes weekly appearances on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” King World Productions, which distributes the show in domestic syndication, began selling it on July 10 and cleared more than 80 percent of the country within five weeks. As of mid-December, the show had cleared 90 percent of the country.
Mr. King added that 95 percent of the stations that saw the presentation on the show opted to purchase it.
“This has a high percentage [chance] of working. This is the first time in the history of the TV business that a talk show has come out of the most successful talk show. Oprah discovered him. Oprah launched him. Oprah came out and endorsed this product,” he said.
Her direct involvement in the show is golden, said Joe Berwanger, VP and general manager for NBC affiliate WDIV-TV in Detroit, which has bought the show. “I like what [Dr. Phil] does on `Oprah.’ I think he has grown into a position where he is ready to host a show.”
Ms. Winfrey’s ratings spike on Tuesdays, when Dr. Phil makes his weekly appearance, notching a 6.5 in households, up from a 6.0 on other days. A proven commodity is rare for a new talk show, said Jay Cascio, VP of programming and creative services for NBC affiliate KING-TV in Seattle, which will carry the show. “I think Dr. Phil probably has one of the best chances of succeeding, because he has really proven himself to the audience,” he said.
Dr. Phil told Electronic Media there will be some common elements with Oprah’s show. “I have spent a lot of time dealing with the traditional issues people face in everyday life-family, parenting, marriage-in a very interactive way. I certainly intend to continue doing some of those things on the new show. We’re also going to have the opportunity to do that more in depth. We’ll also take on more topical things.”
However, he said, “The last thing I want to do is be compared to Oprah. How do you compare to Oprah? She is the Michael Jordan of daytime TV.”
King World Productions and Paramount Domestic Television, the show’s producer, plan to conduct market research and focus groups in January and February to further define the format of the show and the preferences of the audience, specifically how viewers expect the show to be different from Ms. Winfrey’s, said Greg Meidel, president of programming for Paramount Domestic Television.
Stacey Lynn Koerner, senior VP and director of broadcast research with Initiative Media in New York, puts the show’s chances at better than 50/50. Dr. Phil brings a track record with his books, ratings and viewer response, but it remains to be seen whether he can carry his own show, she said.
Mr. King predicts “Dr. Phil” will win its time period. “We’re hoping for a 3.0 [to] 3.5 rating, which is very big for 3 p.m,” he said.
Not everyone shares his enthusiasm. Aaron Cohen, executive VP of broadcast at Horizon Media, said he will proceed cautiously with the program. “It’s not a matter of the program, he said. “It’s the time period, the promotions-and the rate of new programming to break through has been abysmal.”