Everybody Loves 'Ray’

The Oprah Winfrey stamp of approval has helped King World quickly secure two-year deals for Food Network’s Rachael Ray, whose fall 2006 daytime lifestyle show has cleared more than 70% of the country in just one month. After getting all top-25 markets and 46 of the top 50, King World has made a production commitment to the tentatively titled The Rachael Ray Show.

Cleared to air once a day, mostly in the mornings, it could be upgraded to afternoon early-fringe periods in season two. Ray already has afternoon berths for year one in such markets as Miami; Sacramento, Calif.; Cleveland; and Orlando, Fla.

King World CEO Roger King says that only the syndicator’s own Dr. Phil, airing mostly in early fringe, scored higher license fees (estimated at far north of $1 million per week) than Ray for a new daytime show when it debuted in 2002. Also, King World has carved out 3½ minutes of national advertising time.

The Viacom, ABC and Fox stations all made multiple bids for the show in New York and Philadelphia, after King turned down a group deal with King World’s sister Viacom stations. King says the market-by-market approach, which resulted in deals with all three top-market station groups, resulted in a bigger overall payday. Stations belonging to Gannett, Post-Newsweek, Media General, Cox, Meredith, Hearst-Argyle, Belo, Scripps Howard and LIN are also on the clearance list.

“The demand for this show is unbelievable,” King says. “To have this much of the country cleared in just a few weeks is a testament to the tremendous talent and popularity of Rachael Ray.”

He credits his sales team for top-market clearances, which include WABC New York, KCBS Los Angeles, WBBM Chicago, WPVI Philadelphia, WBZ Boston, KPIX San Francisco, KTVT Dallas/Ft. Worth, WTTG Washington, WXIA Atlanta and KPRC Houston.

While King World is spearheading production, Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, Food Network-owner Scripps and Ray’s Watch Entertainment will also have ownership stakes. As with Dr. Phil, King says, provisions in Ray’s contracts prohibit stations from airing it against The Oprah Winfrey Show, in part “because we don’t want to get creamed.” Ray will appear on Oprah “five to eight times” this season, King says. A Thanksgiving-season appearance attracted that show’s highest ratings of the November sweeps. Meanwhile, Ray’s multiple Food Network series have grown by a combined million viewers this season.


King thinks Ray will surpass the 2 rating that conventional industry wisdom says spells success. That thinking “can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says. Programmers, he has long maintained, should strive for a 3.5-4 household daytime rating nationally. That would put Ray in the same league with Live With Regis and Kelly. King expects the program, which was closing in on a showrunner last week to gear up for the long pre-production period ahead, to skew younger than Regis.

Initially, King World will not offer product-integration opportunities to advertisers or repurpose Ray on cable, although King says “anything is possible” down the road. The syndicator has avoided repurposing Oprah (except for Oxygen’s weekly after-show edition) and Dr. Phil. But then, neither is partly owned by a cable network.

King believes putting the shows on multiple platforms right away “is a stupid way of doing things. You want to make people watch it where it is [on a broadcast station].”

He’d consider doing prime time specials on broadcast, similar to what CBS does with Dr. Phil. For now, though, his focus is “to build this into a franchise that will last for at least 10 or 15 years.”