Oprah Takes A Hit: Blame Obama?

Oprah Winfrey may be paying a price for her endorsement of U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama.
The Queen of daytime TV still leads the syndicated talk show field, but her lead over TV pseudo-shrink Dr. Phil McGraw is shrinking. Worse, her ratings are down 17% year-to-year—21% among her core viewers, women 18-49.
That was one of the tid bits tossed today by Marc Berman, Mediaweek’s “Programming Insider.” The New York-based ratings expert crunched the latest syndicated numbers today in a webcast timed to preview shows being offered at the annual syndicated marketplace NATPE (Jan. 28-31 in Las Vegas).
Berman remarked off the top that almost all of the syndicated fare is getting old. After 20-plus years of dominance, shows like Oprah, Entertainment Tonight and Wheel of Fortune are all still tops in their fields, but they’re down year-to-year, too, as are many other syndicated favorites. “Audiences are getting bored,” Berman suggests.
Still, Oprah seemed particularly hard hit. There has been a great deal of negative reaction to her Obama endorsement at her own web site. Many female viewers apparently see Oprah’s Obama boost as a betrayal to the first female candidate to ever have a shot at the White House—Hillary Clinton. Berman says he wouldn’t be surprised if Dr. Phil didn’t ultimately overtake his TV mentor in the syndicated talk show ratings—despite his botched Britney Spears intervention earlier this month.
Berman doesn’t think that blunder–seen as brazenly opportunistic–will be much of a set back for McGraw. “The audience forgives and forgets very quickly,” he said.
Taking an even bigger drop in daytime has been Tyra Banks, down 27% in households and women 18-49. This despite the fact that the writers strike really hasn’t impacted any of these daytime talk shows. Their writers are members of a different guild.
The only daytime talker to show no loss—and no gain—in the past 12 months is Ellen DeGeneres, who ranks behind Oprah and Dr. Phil.
Next week at NATPE, a new daytime talk show starring Bonnie Hunt will be shopped. There’s also a new show from McGraw’s son Jay called The Doctors featuring a shrink, a plastic surgeon and other medical experts answering questions about health concerns. That show will likely bump Montel Williams off the schedule; his show is also shedding viewers.
A shorter, half-hour version of Deal Or No Deal, hosted by Howie Mandel, will also be shopped at NATPE as is a new TV game show version of Trivial Pursuit.
Berman noted that the fall off in sitcoms over the last decade has led to a sitcom drought in syndication. This fall’s two newcomers, Two And A Half Men and Family Guy, are doing well, but viewers seem to be tiring of reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond, Seinfeld and Friends, with the last one down 26% in adults 18-49.
Berman sees the sitcom drought being filled in the near future with cable fare. Shows such as American Chopper, Punk’d and Pimp My Ride all enter the syndicated market next fall.
Among the newsmagazines, TMZ is the hottest rookie, the highest-rated new show in all categories in syndication. While Entertainment Tonight is down 18% in adults 18-49, it’s still “the No. 1 entertainment show in the universe.”

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