Ellen at Eleven

Ellen DeGeneres opens season five with two specials from New York, one of 20 markets where the show is switching time periods.

In five cities, stations are moving DeGeneres away from head-to-head competition with The Oprah Winfrey Show. WNBC tried that in New York last season and got clobbered by Winfrey on WABC. DeGeneres will return to her original 11 a.m. time slot.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) will be the first guest for Emmy-winning DeGeneres. That will mark Clinton’s first daytime appearance since announcing that she was running for President last January.

Other guests booked to appear in the show’s first week include country star Faith Hill, Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts, Grey’s Anatomy’s Eric “McSteamy” Dane, Food Network star Paula Deen, actor George Lopez and stars of Bravo’s Flipping Out.

“We’re going to focus this year on being more topical and more timely in what we’re doing,” says Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of Telepictures Productions. “New York speaks to that.

“But I wouldn’t say Ellen’s going to be serious. Part of what she accomplishes is humanizing everyone who comes on the show. She is able to break through in ways that allow viewers to get a sense of them as people. She engages them and she is funny, so she makes it fun.”

Comedy (and funny dancing) makes Ellen work, so, besides Sen. Clinton, she will also use New York to introduce her new disc jockey, Ted Stryker, who works at L.A.’s KROQ-FM.

But Ellen’s Manhattan kick-off is an important and showy way to promote the show’s time-period change on WNBC, where it air will lead out of the Today show’s new fourth hour.

Chicago-based Oprah is also coming to New York to launch its 22nd season on Sept. 10. Tyra is leaving Los Angeles altogether to move to Manhattan permanently.

Ellen will change time periods in 20 of the top 100 markets, including NBC-owned WRC Washington, and WTVJ Miami, along with Gannett-owned WJXX Jacksonville, Fla., an ABC affiliate.

In Washington, one of the nation’s top news towns, Ellen is moving from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., leading into CBS’ Dr. Phil at 3 p.m. and then three straight hours of local news.

Meanwhile, NBC’s iVillage Live, which is relaunching with a new (still unannounced) title on Sept. 17, will remain at noon.

With afternoon soap Passions cancelled, Ellen fits right into the early afternoon slot, says Matt Glassman, WRC coordinating producer of special projects.

In Miami and Jacksonville, Ellen is replacing the 5 p.m. news. On Miami’s WTVJ, news will move to 7 p.m.

In Jacksonville, Fla. Gannett owns a duopoly of NBC and ABC affiliates: WLTV and WJXX, respectively. Since the acquisition of WJXX in 2001, Gannett has been simulcasting WTLV’s newscasts. Moving Ellen to 5 p.m. will change that, although local news will stay put at 7 p.m.

Says Ken Tonning, general manager of the Jacksonville duopoly, “This gives us more opportunities to differentiate between the two stations, and attract a different audience.”

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.