The new season of syndicated shows is getting under way. Among the new and returning first-run and off-net series rolling out, perhaps the one with the highest profile belongs to Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz. It stars Oprah-groomed surgeon Mehmet Oz and could succeed her show as an afternoon franchise if she eventually decides to call it quits.
Not since Dr. Phil debuted in 2002 has a syndicated talk show been as highly anticipated as Dr. Oz.
Like Dr. Phil, it was created by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions and its host was groomed on Oprah for years before being nudged out of the nest. Many stations consider it a potential successor to Oprah since Winfrey has not yet said if she’ll continue with her show beyond the 2010-11 season.
“There is an added focus on him because if Oprah goes away, this could be a very important franchise in the afternoon,” says Michael Devlin, general manager of Belo’s ABC affiliate in Dallas, WFAA.
Dr. Oz, which is distributed by Sony Pictures Television and hosted by surgeon Mehmet Oz, premieres on Monday, along with about a dozen other new and returning syndicated shows.
It could also be a successor to Dr. Phil, a one-time heir apparent to Oprah that has seen its ratings tumble.
Dr. Phil and Oprah, distributed by CBS Television Distribution, are making their season debuts on Monday.
Like Oprah, Dr. Phil is contracted to run through only this season and next. He may not be back after that, particularly if stations demand significantly lower license fees.
Dr. Oz is positioning itself “as a long-term franchise, which is what the goal has to be,” says Emerson Coleman, vice president of programming at Hearst Television. “Still, all eyes will be on this show on the 14th.”
Dr. Oz’s performance will start becoming clear on Tuesday, when its first set of overnight ratings come out.
“This is as close to a spinoff of Oprah as you’re going to get,” says Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming at Katz Television Group. “So, the biggest surprise this year would be if Dr. Oz is not reasonably successful.”
Some programmers say it will need to debut to a minimum 2.0 household rating to be considered an out-of-the-gate hit.
As a point of comparison, CBS’s Rachael Ray — co-produced by Harpo — had a 2.8 household rating for its debut in September 2006, based on overnight ratings. In 2003, Warner Bros.’ Ellen pulled a 2.0 rating on its first day. In 2002, Dr. Phil had a 5.2 for its first day.
In addition to Dr. Phil and Oprah, CBS’s Jeopardy!, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Judy, Rachael Ray and Wheel of Fortune kick off new seasons next week.
Several other shows debut in broadcast syndication the following Monday, Sept. 21, including Twentieth Television’s Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? and My Name is Earl; Litton TV’s Street Court; and NBCU Television Distribution’s The Office also debut on that day.
This week, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution rolled out the new seasons of Ellen, Judge Jeanine Pirro (which was on CW last year), Judge Mathis, People’s Court and Bonnie Hunt.
Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, CBS’s The Doctors, NBCU’s Deal or No Deal also had season premieres.
Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams debuted in July.
Twentieth’s Wedlock or Deadlock began a test run in July on a handful of Fox stations. That test run was extended just days ago for another six weeks.