‘Dr. Phil’ debut has execs beaming …

Sep 23, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Several years ago doctors meant nothing but trouble for what is now the Paramount/King World tandem. “Dr. Joy Browne” had a short run for King World while “Dr. Laura Schlessinger” became a PR nightmare for Paramount.
Fortunately, “Dr. Phil” had the cure for all ailments with his jaw-dropping debut last week for the two Viacom-owned syndicators.
After three days on the air, the King World-distributed “Dr. Phil”-which is produced by Paramount and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions-had earned a 5.2/14 average in Nielsen’s metered markets, including a still-growing 5.2/15 on Wednesday. Clearly, those who predicted the death of syndication were proved wrong as the new strip jumped 6 share points over its lead-in (a 2.6/8) and boasted a 100 percent increase in rating.
For King World CEO Roger King, the rating was “like going to the Super Bowl,” as King World can boast the country’s top three game shows and now the top two talk shows in syndication.
“I’ve said over and over that good television will work,” Mr. King said. “`Dr. Phil’s’ success was a direct result of King World, Harpo and Paramount coming together and working together over the past 18 months. I received calls from stations and other syndicators alike congratulating me. It reminds me why I stayed in this business instead of retiring-the passion for the business and developing a hit. Believe me, it’s fun to have a hit and horrible to have a failure.”
Ms. Winfrey’s show-from which “Dr. Phil” was spawned-made its season debut to its own strong rating, a 7.5/18 on Sept. 16, its best since 1998. Dr. Phil’s regular visits to “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on Tuesdays launched a series of best-selling books and now a successful spinoff show. The “Dr. Phil” Web site also saw growth, earning a half-million hits Sept. 16 and rising 50 percent to 750,000 on Sept. 18.
“I know that nobody does this alone,” Ms. Winfrey said in a statement. “I’m thankful to Paramount and King World for pulling together such a great team.”
Ironically, “Oprah” dropped 17 percent in rating and 2 shares on Tuesday-the day Dr. Phil used to visit. It posted a 6.0/15 rating on Sept. 17, compared with a 6.2/15 for a repeat on Sept. 10, Dr. Phil’s last appearance on the show.
But clearly the investment paid off for the three companies.
“There is still a lot of work to do yet because this is a marathon, not a sprint,” said Paramount Domestic Television President of Programming Greg Meidel. “We are ecstatic because not only does the show look good, the quarter growth is truly exciting. This was always a win-win situation for us because Dr. Phil became a brand developed on `Oprah.’ He became a seasoned veteran of the talk show format, growing into print, seminars and now the last piece of the puzzle, a really good television show.”