It may not be the Golden Age of daytime television, but daytime on the Big Four O&Os and affiliates still shines. In fact, it outshines cable offerings by a wide margin with lots of original and informative daytime shows. And unlike cable, it can still regularly attract millions of viewers to the same time and channel.
I’ve been watching a lot of broadcast daytime TV lately here in New York (some live, some off the DVR in the evening) and I’m impressed. From early morning till late afternoon, the Big Four network affiliates air high-quality original programming, equal parts entertainment and information, sometimes in the same show.
More so now than primetime, daytime distinguishes broadcasting from cable and all other TV media. It helps keep old call-letter stations at the center of the TV universe. It should be celebrated for that.
Broadcast daytime really gets rolling with the network morning shows, each of which has its own personality and personalities (I favor CBS This Morning on the basis of its handsome set). They introduce streams of game shows, soap operas, talk shows, local newscasts and court shows throughout of the rest of the day.
While cable daytime fragments audiences into hundreds of slivers, broadcast daytime still manages to pull together millions of viewers to one place at one time, which is increasingly rare and something the advertisers are happy to reward. Ask Mitch Burg at SNTA.
The primetime Emmys are starting to look like the old Cable Ace Awards, but the daytime Emmys are still about broadcasting. Of the 21 awards handed out this year, 16 went to broadcast shows.
Cable simply can’t match broadcasting’s mix of network, syndicated and local programming.
Oprah Winfrey gave it a try. In partnership with Discovery Communications, she assembled a new cable network built on the broadcast daytime TV model – original talk and cooking and lifestyle shows aimed at stay-at-home moms. OWN would be anchored by strong broadcast-like talk shows featuring Rosie O’Donnell and Gayle King.
But it all fell flat. Today, OWN isn’t much of a factor. It isn’t even talked about in the trades or TV columns much. It’s evolved (devolved is a better word) into just another second-tier cable network packed with repeats and reality shows.
From 1 p.m. to midnight today, it will be running back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back episodes of Police Women of Dallas, a cycle of a Cops-like reality series that aired on TLC in 2010. Not exactly what Oprah had in mind.
Hollywood’s infatuation with broadcast daytime is undiminished. They introduced four high-profile new shows this September — Katie, Ricki, Jeff Probst and Steve Harvey. Each represents a multi-million dollar bet on broadcasting.
They won’t all make it. The early numbers are not great for Ricki and Probst, which usually spells trouble. But you never know. They could still get traction. Ricki, to be fair, has been plagued by stunted distribution in New York because of a retrans dispute between Tribune and Cablevision.
On Tuesday, Katie popped a 2.3 household rating, thanks to an appearance from Barbra Streisand. If she can continues to attract those kinds of guests in the early going, she may be able to be build on her already solid numbers.
Steve Harvey has been the big surprise, proving a nice lead-in and complement to Ellen on the NBC O&Os.
The point is the studios understand that first-run syndication is a high-risk, high-reward business and don’t mourn failed efforts for long. Recognizing that some of the new and old shows won’t be with us next season, they are already pitching replacements.
According to our story from Kevin Downey this week, Sony is out there pitching Queen Latifah, and Warner Bros., having lined up Fox as a launch group for Bethenny, is looking for outlets in the rest of the country.
As a man pushing 60, I am definitely not the target audience for the daytime programming. But I appreciate most of it and enjoy some of it.
Most of it is good natured and upbeat, although some of the court shows get a little ugly from time to time and the soaps will always be soaps. (Note that I am talking about Big Four affiliates in New York, not Tribune’s WPIX and its obsession with paternity tests and conflict. The less said about its daytime schedule, the better.)
The one thing the syndicated talk shows have in common is their high production values and beautiful sets – so beautiful they moved the New York Times to publish a story about one of the designers.
Even the audiences are attractive. Often integral parts of the shows, they are well dressed and groomed. Remind me to assign Downey a story on how they pull that off. I suspect that a whole business has grown up around assembling audiences for first-run shows.
When I say daytime TV is informative, I’m talking not just about local news. I’m also talking about shows like The Doctors and especially Dr. Oz.
Oz really is a public service. He’s the real deal, dispensing good advice on how to maintain good health. He also knows how to keep it light. What impresses me most – and this is true of The Doctors, too – is that the producers day after day are able to come up with at least one strong segment.
I haven’t yet watched Wendy Williams in her new studio this season, but I will. In fact, I feel obliged. To promote the show this week, she Federal Expressed me a bottle of nail polish, a vibrant yellow that she says is her favorite. Unfortunately, the color just doesn’t work for me.
It might be going too far to say this is the Golden Age of daytime, given the absence of legendary personalities like Oprah and Donahue, but you can certainly say daytime remains vital and dynamic. And that’s saying a lot given the relentless competition from cable and economic and cultural forces that have transplanted millions of women from home to office.
It should reassure everyone who doubts broadcasting’s future.
Sorry, I have to go now. I’m missing Jeff Probst and Judge Joe Brown.