Oprah Wears Its Age Well

After 16 years on the air, King World's The Oprah Winfrey Show
shows few signs of aging, with the national Nielsen ratings marking double-digit growth for the show in all the key adult women categories.

Although the show is down a scant 2% season-to-date vs. last year, in women 18-34, Oprah
has grown 24% since the beginning of the season. In women 18-49, the show is up 15%, and, in women 25-54, it has increased 10%, said Moira Coffey, King World's executive vice president of research. Conversely, the 50+ female demographic is down 13%, Coffey said.

"The shift in the demographic strength of the program is remarkable to me," Coffey said. "There's almost no explanation for this other than to suggest what they are doing with the show creatively."

Said Harpo Productions President Tim Bennett, "Last year, Dr. Phil [McGraw] was on the show every Tuesday. Phil added some strong ratings, and it was nice to be able to rely on this resource once a week. But the nice thing about Phil going out on his own is that Oprah found a way to reenergize what she does. She hasn't missed a beat."

The result is happier advertisers, said Steve Hirsch, president of King World Media Sales. "We've never had any problem selling Oprah; it's our crown jewel." They like it more now that demographics are improving, he added.

While Winfrey hasn't drastically changed her show, she has tweaked it a bit. First, Harpo changed the opener. "The first five minutes are so key to tune people in," Coffey said.

And Winfrey also has gotten out with the people a good deal this year.

"This year, she started off by surprising viewers by sitting in the drive-in window in McDonald's," Bennett said. "She went to a Greek restaurant to celebrate the success of and surprise the family of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. An audience member stood up to say, 'I think you should visit our community because everyone there is a big Oprah fan.' So Oprah got on a plane and went down to a small town in Louisiana and knocked on the woman's door, where she surprised the heck out of her.

"The beauty of what Oprah is doing is she loves to get out with the people," Bennett added. "You see in her eyes a love affair with what she's doing."

Paige Albiniak

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.