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'Katie' Is Talker of the Town

The new daytime talk shows are up and running, and early results are mostly in line with expectations, according to syndication sources.

Disney-ABC Television’s Katie premiered on Sept. 10 at a 2.8 rating/8 share primary-run household average in the weighted metered markets, according to Nielsen Media Research. That was a good start, tying CBS Television Distribution’s Rachael Ray for best talk premiere in the decade since CTD’s Dr. Phil spun out of Oprah Winfrey in 2002. But by Sept. 12, Katie had lost 19% of its first-day rating, down to a 2.3/7.

Still, Katie, starring former Today show cohost and CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, has a ways to go if it’s to take over the daytime talk-show crown. The show’s opening-day ratings improved over year-ago time periods by 22%, which is “basically [performing] at the same levels of the time period,” said one analyst. Particularly of concern to some station group programmers was how Katie’s ratings dropped off at the quarter-hour mark, indicating that viewers may have lost interest.

Overall reviews for the show and Couric’s performance were positive. “Katie outperformed my expectations,” said one station executive. “I was a little worried about the quarter-hour dropoff in a couple of places. But she’s on the right stations, and she’s the right fit.”

NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey, which is produced by Endemol USA out of NBC-owned WMAQ Chicago, continued to make a strong case for itself in its second week. Five days in, the show was averaging a steady 1.5 rating/4 share, up 50% over last year’s time periods and up 25% over its average lead-ins, which marks success by any measure.

“For the single-hosted talk shows, it’s very hard to find a talent that people care enough about to watch,” said one syndication executive. “You have to have remarkable entertainers like Ellen [DeGeneres] or Steve Harvey or someone with expertise that you really can’t find anywhere else, like Dr. Oz.”

As long as Harvey can keep his audience laughing, NBCU seems to have a solid performer on its hands.

Returns were not quite so positive for CTD’s Jeff Probst or Twentieth Television’s Ricki Lake.

Most syndication executives and station programmers said that Probst met their expectations with its 1.0/3 debut, although they are still wondering what the show’s focus will ultimately be. The bigger question for Probst will be whether the show can grow from here.

“Probst came into this without any real point of view or expertise,” said one executive. “He’s definitely trying to create some value there, through self-help and adventure, as he calls it.”

The debut that had station executives most concerned was Twentieth’s Ricki Lake, which premiered to a 0.8/2 primary-run weighted metered-market average. Twentieth was quick to point out that the show lost some of its ratings due to Cablevision’s blackout of Tribune’s WPIX to 40% of the New York market. But station execs said a bigger problem is the show’s poor showing in big markets such as Los Angeles and Chicago, where Ricki turned in a 0.3/1 at 3 p.m. on both Fox-owned KTTV Los Angeles and WFLD Chicago.

And on Tribune’s WPIX, where Ricki airs in the 4 p.m. time slot formerly occupied by Warner Bros.’ Anderson, Ricki did a 0.7/2 rating. That was down from the 1.0 Tribune’s Bill Cunningham and NBCU’s Steve Wilkos filed and the 1.5 earned by NBCU’s Maury, though it was an improvement from Anderson’s 0.5/1 premiere on WPIX last fall.

Speaking of Anderson, the show’s reboot to Anderson Live!, featuring mostly live-to-tape episodes and a new cohost every day, opened 18% stronger on Sept. 10 than its 2011 premiere. That performance came as a surprise to Warner Bros. executives, considering that Anderson Live!’s station lineup is weaker than Anderson had last year at this time.

Last week’s real success story, however, was the 10thseason premiere of Warner Bros.’ Ellen, which opened at a 3.0 rating/8 share primary-run weighted metered market average, up 20% from last year’s debut episode.

Moreover, Ellen had its best season premiere ever among both women 25-54 and 18-49, scoring a 2.2/12 among women 25-54, up almost a full rating point from last year’s 1.3/7, and a 1.7/10 among women 18- 49, up 54% in that demo from last year.

While this year’s newcomers are just getting going, syndicators are already seriously shopping next year’s contenders. Warner Bros. last week was working on closing deals for Bethenny, which Fox tested for six weeks on six stations over the summer to good results. And Sony Pictures Television is actively shopping its new Queen Latifah talker, showing a presentation tape of Latifah working with Los Angeles-based music students and donating instruments to the school, as well as going on adventures with the widows of soldiers.

Both Bethenny and Queen Latifah are expected to debut next fall. CTD also is developing a new talk show, with food personalities Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis.

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