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Syndication Ratings: Daytime Talk Shows

The recent primetime visibility of several daytime talk-show hosts, including Ellen DeGeneres and Tyra Banks, hasn’t sparked any lasting ratings growth for their syndicated programs.

Networks have increasingly turned to syndicated daytime personalities in hopes of drawing their loyal viewers to primetime. In addition to DeGeneres’ turn as host of the Academy Awards and Banks’ return for the eighth cycle of The CW’s America’s Next Top Model, Oprah Winfrey has produced two recent primetime specials for ABC. And last week, NBC announced that daytime ringmaster Jerry Springer will take over as host of America’s Got Talent.

But, despite earning strong ratings and revenue, such primetime forays have generally failed to translate into long-term daytime gains. Winfrey, of course, hardly needs a daytime boost. Otherwise, only Springer has seen a significant upswing since appearing in primetime on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars (DWTS).

Studio researchers say they have yet to detect a ratings correlation between primetime exposure and daytime performance. But that hasn’t stopped syndicators from hoping the primetime magic will carry over into the daylight hours.

Among other daytime players venturing into prime, Dr. Phil McGraw of CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil often moonlights for specials on CBS. And Regis Philbin of Live With Regis and Kelly is ubiquitous when the sun goes down, previously hosting ABC’s Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and, until recently, America’s Got Talent. (Philbin bowed out citing production conflicts with his daily show.)

Warner Bros. heavily promoted DeGeneres’ Oscar-hosting stint in hopes of attracting new viewers to her clean, observational comic style (ironically, the very traits some TV critics panned in their reviews of her performance). DeGeneres appeared on Barbara Walters’ pre-Oscar special on ABC, and the syndicator even produced a live telecast of The Ellen DeGeneres Show the next day.

But the ratings spike Ellen enjoyed before and after the awards show subsided as the week wore on and the February sweeps drew to a close.

Banks, whose popular reality series Top Model returned for a new installment on Feb. 28, the last day of sweeps, has never experienced a quantifiable ratings gain for Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks Show.

So far, Springer is the only one to see a lasting daytime bump following a stint in prime. Since he appeared on DWTS last fall, household ratings for his NBC Universal-produced Jerry Springer have risen more than 12% from the fourth quarter of 2006 to the first quarter of this year. Springer climbed from a 1.6 to a 1.8 rating and jumped 10%, from 1.83 million to 2.02 million, in total viewers.

Although numerous factors play into ratings peaks and valleys, research executives at other studios agreed that Springer’s turn on DWTS went a long way toward cleaning up his image as daytime’s master of sleaze—and perhaps led some viewers to take a fresh look at his daily talk circus.

And the benefit runs both ways.

The Syndicated Network Television Association (SNTA) attributes the networks’ increasing taste for daytime stars to independent research indicating that viewers are influenced more by and place greater trust in daily syndicated personalities than network celebrities.

“The networks realize the value that our stars have,” SNTA President Mitch Burg recently said.

Announcing Springer’s new role on America’s Got Talent, NBC Entertainment Senior VP Craig Plestis did not shy away from the notoriety Springer has earned in his day job: “To say the least, he is known for presiding over an unpredictable show where the unexpected is the typical order of each day.”