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Summer Stays Hot for Top Talkers

For the first time, Warner Bros.’ The Ellen DeGeneres Show will join the likes of Disney-ABC’s Live With Kelly and Michael and Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams and offer new episodes in June, July and August. Ellen is down 4% season-to-season, averaging a 2.7 through May 17 according to Nielsen Media Research; the show is looking for a ratings bump.

Staying on in the summer has worked wonders for Wendy, the syndicated talk show that’s shown the most growth over the past year, gaining 14% to a 1.6 season-to-date household average through May 17, according to Nielsen. This will mark the third season that Wendy has eschewed summer hiatus and worked through most of July. The show’s performance is much stronger when it’s in originals, and it’s been on a growth trajectory ever since Debmar-Mercury first instituted the change in 2013.

“Who needs the summer off?” said Williams. “I love what I do and am so excited to be able to share in the amazing enthusiasm and energy of my audience at home and in the studio, including those who are home from school. This is a phenomenal experience and I am so grateful to spend the summer with them, spilling all those juicy Hot Topics and sharing laughs.”

“Thanks to Wendy, her terrific production team and our strong lineup of affiliates, we now have one of only a handful of talk shows that have not only survived but thrived in daytime,” said Debmar-Mercury copresidents Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein. “Very rarely in our long careers have we seen a show perform like this, one that trends up sweep after sweep, routinely posts year-over-year growth and sees gains in almost every market, including on traditional affiliates and following newscasts as ratings for most other shows sink.”

Ellen won’t remain in production as long as Wendy, but the third-ranked talker has added shows across all three of the summer months.

Announcing the show’s “Biggest Summer Ever” on May 22, DeGeneres said: “Summer is almost here and I’m excited because this is going to be our biggest summer ever…I’m going to show some moments that you’ve never seen before. And you’re probably wondering how I can do that. It’s because I’m kind of a big wig. In fact, I should have my big wig on right now.”

Ellen aired all-new episodes from June 1-5 and is repackaging favorites from June 8-12.

The show also is offering several summer sweepstakes, including the “Mattress Firm Summer Watch & Win” from June 15-July 10, and the “12 Days Summertime Spectacular” from July 20-August 7, which will give away four pairs of tickets to fans. In August, viewers can watch and win tickets to the show’s season 13 premiere.

LiveStays Live

Another syndie talker that stays popular in the summer is Live With Kelly and Michael, but that show has always remained in production over the summer due to its live nature.

“We do more live and new shows than anyone else in syndication,” says Michael Gelman, Live’s executive producer. “It definitely does help ratings-wise, and it also helps that we are around most of the time.”

Live only takes three weeks off during the summer and during those weeks, Gelman and his team “repackage” shows, often adding new opens and footage that hasn’t previously been seen.

Gelman plays up the show’s already-light style even more in the summer, with fun events such as “Live’s Search for America’s New Grill Star,” the winner of which gets $10,000 and five produced webisodes that will premiere on the Live website and on Live also makes a big deal of the Fourth of July. That show will air on July 3 this year and will again feature Kelly and Michael in their patriotic onesies.

“What’s crazy with all these shows that take summer off is that the summer is the hugest time for movies and now a lot of new things are launching on TV as well,” said Gelman. “This summer, we have big stars such as Ryan Reynolds, Michael Douglas, Jake Gyllenhaal, Kevin James, Jon Hamm. We have names that come on our show because others are not on and we are.”

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.