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Talk Gets Younger, Richer Crowd

The audience for syndicated television’s daytime audience is changing for the better. There has been an upswing this season in the number of young and relatively affluent women tuning in, which is good news for syndicators and stations.

Talk shows, in particular, are posting gains. While average ratings are down for all of syndicated TV and about flat for court shows among women 18-34 and women 18-49, talk-show ratings for the demos are up 13% and 19%, respectively, for the time period Aug. 30-Nov. 14.

Moreover, among women 18-34 with household incomes of $75,000 or more, the average talk-show rating is up 13% from the same time last year. That is based on analysis of Nielsen Media Research data by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution.

The increases in viewing among young affluent women can largely be pinned on three shows: King World’s The Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil and Warner Bros.’ The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Follow the Money

Oprah’s average audience among women 18-34 with household incomes over $50,000 is up nearly 22% from last season’s average to 773,000, based on Nielsen ratings for the broadcast season through Nov. 7. Dr. Phil’s audience in the demo is up about 24% to 478,000, and Ellen’s audience is up 27% to 186,000. Compared with the 2002-03 season, both Oprah and Dr. Phil have posted increases of roughly 50% in that sweet-spot demographic.

But affluent women watching daytime talk are still unusual. They represent a small percentage of each show’s audience: for example, about 7% of Oprah’s total audience. But it is a group sought after by many advertisers.

That is particularly so because women watching TV during the day also tend to be the members of a household doing the shopping, says Joanne Burns, senior vice president of sales marketing, research, and new media at Twentieth Television.

“With the time available, they are the heavy consumers,” she says. “That’s as opposed to the prime time audience. Those shows in prime time get a lot of female viewers who are still the primary target of a lot of advertisers. But they don’t have a lot of time for shopping.”

The average person watching syndicated daytime programs is 46 years old, according to the Syndicated Network Television Association. That compares with 49 for the major broadcast networks.

“Syndication is daytime,” says SNTA President Mitch Burg. “We’re doing 65% of the [broadcast] programming hours, and we’re the only vehicle outside the network [daytime] dramas that pull a rating.”

An increase in those ratings among younger women is also welcome news for syndication. For two decades, the daytime audience has been migrating to cable, whose share of the audience grew from 38% in the 1998-99 season to 49% in 2002-03.

“Where it used to be a given that we would get those viewers, now we have to work to get them back,” says Bruce K. Rosenblum, executive vice president of research at Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “Oprah has been successful at doing that, and Dr. Phil has also been successful at bringing young, upscale women back from cable.”

That may partly explain the dramatic 17.3% increase in ad spending on national syndication for the first three quarters of this year. Expenditures surged to nearly $2.9 billion, according to data released last week by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Advertisers Opting In

“[Syndication] is a great outlet for advertisers,” says Peter Butchen, senior vice president and group director of national television at Initiative. “Syndicated daytime talk shows are, in aggregate, a competitive set to the three broadcast networks. And it’s much higher-rated than most cable programs.”

Due partly to the uptick in viewing among young women, long-time advertisers and new ones are tip-toeing into syndicated daytime programs.

“Traditionally, we’ve had packaged goods and pharmaceuticals, which continue to be key supporters,” says Amy Carney, executive vice president of advertiser sales at Sony Pictures Television. “But there are also fast-foods and theatricals. And in recent years, we’ve seen a lot of growth in other categories, like credit cards, automotive, and cosmetics.”

Michael Teicher, executive vice president of media sales at Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, says categories like wireless telephones are driving up spending by chasing after the younger, more affluent viewers coming into syndication.

“Some new advertisers are coming in due to a greater level of education,” he says. “The reality has set in that our programs are extremely competitive versus network programs and can certainly deliver higher ratings than virtually all of cable.”