The Price Point | Was Ellen Able To Pull It Off?
After a summer of negative publicity, Ellen DeGeneres had one assignment for her first show of the season: convince her loyal viewers that she was heartbroken by the revelations of bad behavior, had thoroughly cleaned house and would never let such a thing happen again.
When the stories of workplace harassment first broke a couple of months ago, Ellen’s response was a tone-deaf memo that only added to the pressure she must have felt to make Monday’s monologue a home run.
Fortunately for Ellen, she enjoys the advantage of a loyal cadre of fans who do not want to lose that one hour a day without world problems and enjoy just fun and happiness. Her disadvantage was the lack of a live studio audience. Performers feed off the empathy of their audiences. The vertical screens were a great idea, but not what she really needed, though the canned applause and laughter was very well done.
I, for one, did not expect Ellen’s initial nervousness and lack of comfort. The past few weeks must have been far more difficult than anyone imagined. Instead of naturalness, Ellen had to call on her inner reserves and go into full actor mode. A highly placed executive who is not part of the show told me: “No one looked more relieved than Ellen when it was over.”
This is not to say Ellen didn’t do a good job. She had a great script that hit every point, then followed the teleprompter word for word. She took responsibility, which was critically important, and ended with a strong and positive vision of the future. Making tWitch a co-executive producer was a nice touch. I think she pulled it off.
Of course, what I think does not matter. Only the viewers count. National overnights show she held a good part of her audience for all four quarter hours, which was critical. We expected a big number for the monologue, but did they stay? The answer is yes.
I’ve waited to write this piece because I believe Tuesday’s show was just as important as Monday’s. Monday was a transition. Tuesday was the show we will see for the rest of this season.
Ellen must have felt very good about the premier because on Tuesday we saw her old self. Relaxed, natural and enthusiastic. She even managed to partially humanize people on the audience screens. There was of course no mention of anything that wasn’t happy. It was exactly the kind of show her fans expect.
More importantly, overnights were generally up from Monday. Some of the people who tuned in Monday for the controversy seem to have come back to the show on Tuesday. Who would have expected that?
Ellen’s future is now in her own hands. Whatever happens in this year’s season will depend on the show itsself, not a forgotten controversy. When was that anyway? Seems like last year.
Hank Price is a media consultant and leadership coach. He is the author of Leading Local Television, a guide to leadership for television general managers, as well as those who aspire to top leadership. Price spent 30 years managing TV stations for Hearst, CBS and Gannett, including WBBM Chicago and KARE Minneapolis, as well as three other stations. Earlier, he was a consultant for Frank N. Magid Associates. Price also served as senior director of Northwestern University’s Media Management Center and is currently director of leadership development for the School of Journalism and New Media at Ole Miss. He is the author of two other books.