Not all `Oprah’ stations happy about `Dr. Phil’

Feb 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

If in the past few years any show has had the pedigree behind it to break through as a ratings sensation, then King World Productions’ upcoming strip “Dr. Phil” is certainly it. It has the right prescription, but not everyone is happy with the potential hit-namely the ABC owned-and-operated stations that carry “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and are disappointed “Oprah” is losing her biggest guest draw.
Dr. Phil McGraw’s Tuesday appearances on the highest-rated talk show in syndication have garnered an 18 percent spike in ratings over what “Oprah” normally has pulled the rest of the week. “Oprah” without Dr. Phil has so far drawn a 5.6 household rating this season, with scores of 3.2 among women 18 to 49 and a 3.7 among women 25 to 54. However, “Oprah’s” Tuesday rating is a full point higher, with a 6.6 household average this season, with numbers of 3.7 among women 18 to 49 and a 4.3 among the 25 to 54 crowd, a rise of 16 percent.
Shows will never compete
“Dr. Phil” will begin airing this fall and is cleared in 90 percent of the country, including the CBS O&Os. The strip is being slotted in most markets to air either directly before or after “Oprah,” with guarantees that the upcoming series will not air against the veteran.
“One of the reasons we recommended this show is that it is the closest thing you can get to an `Oprah’ spinoff,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at Katz Television Group. “Of course there isn’t another Oprah, but there can be a companion and extension of Oprah, and that’s what we consider Dr. Phil to be. He’s already developed a strong camera presence going into his fourth season, and the folks producing his show are shadowing the `Oprah’ producers.”
The good news for the CBS O&Os was, however, bad for “Oprah’s” ABC affiliates which lost “Dr. Phil” to the CBS stations. In fact, some of the station managers had griped that because of their promotional work to build up Dr. Phil as a weekly event, they should have been included in any deals for a spinoff series.
“Not only will `Oprah’ suffer without Phil’s weekly presence, but now our competitors will benefit from our investment into his popularity,” said the general manager of a station in one of the country’s top markets that is currently airing “Oprah.” Viacom, the parent company of King World, also owns the CBS stations.
That argument doesn’t, however, hold water with King World executives, who noted that every station currently airing “Oprah” was offered the chance to air “Dr. Phil.” That sentiment is shared by Mr. Carroll.
“Stations should be taking it in a couple of ways-first of all, it’s not running directly against `Oprah,’ and she was at the top before Dr. Phil even came into the picture,” Mr. Carroll said. “Plus, `Oprah’s’ producers are so good that they will inevitably come up with an ongoing segment to replace Phil with another expert to complement Oprah.
Time-slot reality
“Are they thrilled that it’s going to run on another station? Probably not. But the reality of the marketplace is that there wasn’t an afternoon opportunity to run the show on the ABC stations and that stations that had a better time period open were able to be more aggressive.”
Of course, there is no given that “Dr. Phil” will be a success. Questions remain about whether he will be able to fill five shows a week without the queen of daytime and whether his sometimes aggressive on-air style will satisfy the appetites of viewers.