The Warner Bros. show is getting upgrades in 23 markets and a big push from its NBC outlets in the top three.
Going into its fourth season, Warner Bros.’ Ellen has always been a talk show that the media loved, but it has yet to generate the big national ratings that would classify it a bona fide hit.
That may be about to change with TV stations in 23 markets—including New York, Baltimore and Charlotte, N.C.—upgrading the show to afternoon and primetime slots this fall. The upgrades should boost the show’s household numbers as well as the already strong demographic ratings.
What’s more, NBC, which partners with Warner Bros. on the show, just renewed it for three more years. And NBC’s top stations—in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago—are giving the show a huge promotional push.
In New York and Los Angeles, the NBC stations are running Ellen back-to-back with NBC Universal’s latest daytime offering, The Megan Mullally Show. In a rare show of cooperation, NBC and Warner Bros. teamed up to create promos for the block that features both stars.
In New York City, WNBC is using Ellen to replace CBS Paramount’s Judge Judy, which is moving to rival WCBS.
“We did not want to renew Judge Judy,” says Frank Comerford, president and general manager of WNBC. “We are transitioning away from the court business. Ellen is a show that’s been successful for us and will help us change our audience profile in the afternoon. We’re going to have a little fun there.”
The Ellen for Judy switch is a bit risky. It removes the show from its comfortable morning surroundings and puts it head-to-head against King World’s Oprah. Ellen is the top performer at 10 a.m, averaging a 2.9 rating/11 share among households in the May sweep, and it’s also WNBC’s best performer between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., when Judy comes on. (All ratings are according to SQAD’s SNAP analytics, which use Nielsen’s NSI area local market ratings.)
Oprah is a monster in New York, averaging a 7.4/19 in May. That’s more than double the household ratings of any other show at 4 p.m., including runnerup Judy.
“Oprah’s Oprah, but 80% of the market is not watching her,” says Comerford. “There’re a lot of ratings points available on cable or other TV stations. Ellen’s a good show so it will draw good numbers no matter where we put it.”
Comerford likes Ellen’s demos, which win its 10 a.m. hour among women 18-49 and women 18-25, and takes second to NBC Universal’s Maury among women 18-34. Comerford expects the show to perform similarly at 4 p.m.
In Charlotte, N.C., Bahakel’s WCCB Fox affiliate is moving Ellen from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., where it will replace Twentieth’s Bernie Mac. In its current slot, Ellen is third in households, losing to CBS’s Guiding Light and ABC’s General Hospital and tying with Warner Bros.’ People’s Court. But the show is No. 1 across all key female demographics.
WCCB General Manager John Hutchison thinks he has an advantage in Ellen because WCCB will be the only station not programming news, aging sitcoms or court shows at 5 p.m., a time period that’s been challenging for TV stations ever since Sony’s Ricki Lake went off the air two years ago.
“In this market, on an average day, about 62 share points are watching something other than the local newscast,” says Jeff Arrowood, the station’s program director and promotion manager. “A lot of people are looking at alternatives. We’ve always wanted to get back into the first-run programming business at 5 p.m., because we’ve always succeeded there with first-run.”
“We like shows like Ellen and [Warner Bros.’] Tyra because their style and production values help brand the station. Those shows are closer than court shows to what we are trying to say Fox Charlotte is,” Hutchison says.
In fact, the station is programming an entire youth talk block in the afternoon, starting with Sony’s Greg Behrendt at 2 p.m., Tyra at 3 p.m., Maury at 4 p.m. and Ellen at 5 p.m. The station will lead into Fox’s primetime with off-net sitcoms.
Finally, Hearst-Argyle’s WBAL Baltimore, an NBC affiliate, is moving Ellen from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., leading into Oprah instead of competing with it.
“We thought the demographics, content and format of the show were consistent with Oprah,” says Wanda Draper, the station’s director of programming.
WBAL let King World’s Dr. Phil go to CBS’s WJZ last year, creating the opportunity for Ellen.
In Baltimore, Ellen is second to CBS’s The Price is Right at 11 a.m, but the show again wins across all key female demographics. When she moves to 3 p.m., she will face Guiding Light, General Hospital and Judge Joe. All three are stiff competition among households, but none is as appealing as Ellen to the young women advertisers that most want to reach.
“It’s one of the true quality shows,” says WCCB’s Hutchison. “In terms of cost per point, it’s one of only three daytime shows that buyers consider qualitative and for which they will pay a premium.”