With ratings down and station groups looking to trim costs, Sony's Dr. Oz is lagging some of its competitors in getting renewed. But Sony's John Weiser says the show's quality content, successful website and hard-working host will eventually pay off. “We think the market will treat us fairly."
‘Oz’ Facing Challenges On Renewals For 2014
Long after other top-rated syndicated talk shows like CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil and Warner Bros.’ Ellen have completed renewal deals with their broadcast outlets for fall 2014 and beyond, Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz is just getting started.
Broadcasters and other syndication watchers say that the Oz renewal effort has been slowed by the show’s declining ratings and push-back from broadcasters on licensing fees and time slots.
“We are surprised that at this time we hear Dr. Oz has not been widely renewed for 2014,” says Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming at Katz Television. “But, we anticipate that with some likely license fee adjustments based on individual market performance, Dr. Oz should be getting renewals on most stations for the next cycle.”
A major market GM who carries the show and asked for anonymity seconds that analysis. “Large station groups are having renewal pricing struggles,” he says. “Until those get resolved, they are not renewing the show…. It will be back but with a lower price….”
The key renewal is Fox TV Stations, where negotiations are now underway. Oz airs on WNYW New York, WFLD Chicago and five other Fox O&Os. In New York, the household rating in the February sweeps was down 14% from the year-ago time slot average. In Chicago, it was down 11%.
John Weiser, president of distribution at Sony Pictures Television, says not to worry, everything is on track. “We think the market will treat us fairly,” he says. “We have the No. 1 most-trusted host on TV. [Host Mehmet Oz] has more local news viewers watching his show than any other TV show. He builds newscasts better than any other show. The show has value to stations.”
Dr. Oz has seen its ratings slip 13% year-to-year this season, to a 1.3 among women 25-54. It now ranks No. 5 among talk shows in that demographic behind Dr. Phil (1.7), Disney-ABC’s Live with Kelly and Michael (1.6), Ellen (1.6) and NBCUniversal’s Maury (1.5).
Two years ago, Oz inherited 83 Oprah time slots, the most of any syndicated TV show. This season, the show had five time slot shifts in the top-20 markets, including four slight downgrades.
ABC’s KABC Los Angeles moved the show from 3 p.m. to 2 p.m. Belo’s WFAA Dallas and Fox’s WAGA Atlanta moved the show from 4 p.m. to 3 p.m. Belo’s KTVK Phoenix shifted the show’s secondary run from 3 p.m. to 11 a.m. The upgrade came in Miami where Post-Newsweek’s WPLG moved it from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Oz, which is sold on a cash-plus-barter basis (four national minutes, 10.5 minutes local), has a few things working in its favor, not the least of which is its quality content, according to Weiser.
“We’re very proud of this show,” he says. “Take a step back. The news coming out is about school shootings, the bad economy and the struggles with unemployment. We’re the only show that is genuinely making people’s lives better with useful, takeaway information.”
And it remains a top-tier show with that 1.3 key demo rating. That is well above this year’s top rookies: Katie (1.0) and NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey (0.9).
If the show’s ratings are slipping, it’s not for Sony’s and Oz’s lack of trying.
Oz is easily one of the hardest working guys in syndicated TV. He regularly visits stations around the country to promote the show, making appearances on local talk shows and newscasts and sometimes presiding at health fairs.
Equally significant, Oz generates a slew of content for its stations, according to Weiser. That includes 52 weekly ad-supported vignettes for stations and their online platforms. On those vignettes, Oz, who doubles as director of the Cardiovascular Institute at New York Presbyterian Hospital, discusses health and nutrition.
“When you talk about a multiplatform experience, Dr. Oz is No. 1,” says Weiser. “The show is unrivaled.”
“Dr. Oz is more than a show,” adds Amy Carney, president of advertiser sales, strategy and research for Sony Pictures Television. “It’s a franchise. The website is a key component to that. The show routinely makes reference to the site. It gives viewers more information, deeper information and information to take action. Now, we’re producing a lot more original content for DoctorOz.com.”
In February, the website had some 3.4 million unique visitors, second behind EllenTV.com among daytime talk show sites, according to comScore.
In the May sweeps that start next Monday, Oz will focus on cleansing the body of toxins with “Dr. Oz’s Ultimate Detox Cleanse Week: Overhaul Your Body.” The show’s content will be enhanced with related online content, including recipes.
Weiser dismisses talk that Sony may add a Dr. Oz cable run to offset any loss in license fee revenue. The most likely outlet would be OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, which currently airs reruns of older seasons of Dr. Phil and Rachael Ray. Winfrey’s Harpo Studios created those shows and, with Sony, Oz.
“We’ve had the option since day one to do cable but we haven’t pursued it,” Weiser says. “We have great station partners. That is our focus now.”