CBS Television Distribution has renewed The Doctors through the 2011-12 TV season in 91% of the country, taking the show through its fourth season. The series is renewed in 48 of the top 50 markets and on the CBS, Gannett, Scripps-Howard, Weigel, Cox, Sunbeam, Belo, LIN, Newport, Raycom, Fisher and Media General station groups.
“The Doctors is a show that's been working across the country,” says Joe DiSalvo, CTD's president of sales. “It started out at a certain point and little by little, month by month, it's been doing better and better.”
In the November sweeps, The Doctors averaged a 2.0 live-plus-same-day household rating, according to Nielsen, and grew 18% over November 2008, the show's first sweeps. That's the largest year-to-year percentage gain of any show in syndication, and a rare feat in today's challenged daytime TV environment.
That growth is encouraging stations to renew the show, according to DiSalvo: “These days, when a station has a show that's working, they want to keep it.”
Stations and syndicators have long complained about the industry habit of renewing syndicated shows out for years and thus clogging the development pipeline—while they continue to engage in the practice. But with stations facing tough economic challenges, shows that stations can bank on have become more important than ever.
In November, CTD announced it had renewed Dr. Phil out through 2014. Last summer, it renewed Rachael Ray through 2012. (The syndicator also has sold Swift Justice With Nancy Grace in 80% of the country for next fall.)
Other syndicators also are looking to the long-term. Warner Bros. has reupped Jeanine Pirro, Judge Mathis, People's Court and TMZ through 2012 on several station groups, and NBC Universal has sold its trio of talkers—Jerry Springer, Maury and Steve Wilkos—to Tribune and other groups through 2012.
“The tried and true is always better for stations than 'Gee, what's this new show going to be?'” DiSalvo says.
The Doctors, hosted by emergency-room physician and former Bachelor Dr. Travis Stork, is produced by Jay McGraw's Stage 29 Productions. McGraw, Dr. Phil Executive Producer Carla Pennington and Dr. Phil McGraw, Jay's father, are executive producers. Andrew Scher is co-executive producer.
The show uses a panel format, with Stork interacting each day with three regular doctors: Ob/Gyn Dr. Lisa Masterson, plastic surgeon and ENT specialist Dr. Andrew Ordon, and pediatrician Dr. James Sears. The show also features many guests, including Dr. Phil, who occasionally stops by to talk about mental-health issues.
“We took four personalities that didn't have a lot of experience in television or a big relationship with the audience, and put them in a format that didn't exist on television before this show launched,” Jay McGraw says. “It was a bit of a learning curve for the audience, who probably wondered what they would get out of this show when they first tuned in. We've gotten better at what we do, and the doctors have gotten better at what they do. We launched a genre of television, not just a new television show.”
Besides the show's regular panel of doctors, its producers rely heavily on questions, comments and suggestions that come in from the show's Website at TheDoctorsTV.com.
“We really see our viewers as important producers on the show,” McGraw says. “They ask us all sorts of questions, and then we go track down all of the information they are looking for. We continue to listen to our viewers and keep things fresh.” He adds that this has been the case for everything from anti-aging techniques to pet care to ways to tell if your child really should see a doctor.
“Our staff has worked really hard to get us where we are,” McGraw says. “There have been more successful space shuttle launches than daytime TV show launches, and I would really like to recognize their hard work.”
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.