Media economics essay

The goal of this presentation is to present three new first-run syndicated talk shows; Sharon Osbourne, Ellen DeGeneres and Fergie), that will be debuting this fall and using research and data gathered from numerous sources, make a case for their placement in this fall TV line up.
The Sharon Osbourne Show comes from veteran first-run syndication producers Telepictures, which is a subsidiary of Warner Bros. Telepictures is behind such first-run shows currently on the air like The Caroline Rhea Show, Jenny Jones, Judge Mathis, Street Smarts, Elimidate, Extra, Change of Heart, and a host to others. Telepictures is also going to be producing The Ellen DeGeneres show debuting this fall. Both Caroline Rhea and Jenny Jones are of the talk show format like Sharon Osbourne. Sharon, the matriarch of MTV’s reality hit The Osbournes, will try to make the transition to daytime talk. It will feature interviews with top celebrities, from feature film and television stars to newsmakers and pop culture icons, as well as audience interaction.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show, also on Telepictures Fall production schedule, features former network sitcom star Ellen DeGeneres. Very similar in format to The Sharon Osbourne Show, this daily talk/variety hour will feature Ellen’s comedy and her “every woman” approach to life’s everyday situations. There will be segments featuring ordinary people with extraordinary stories, and musical performances as well as recurring studio and field segments. Being well connected to the Hollywood A-List community should help pump up her guest bookings.

Fergie comes from Universal; the producers of such shows as Maury, Jerry Springer, Blind Date, The Fifth Wheel and many more. Sarah Ferguson, the former wife of England’s Prince Andrew and the England’s duchess or York and a Weight Watchers spokesperson, will try to give the royal treatment to this talk show which focuses on stories of survival and passion for life. Universal believes viewers will be able to relate to Fergie because she has many of their own situations in her life-divorced, in her 40s, two kids, struggles with her weight, etc.

The history of the talk/variety format dates back to the end of World War II.

With peace came a sudden flurry of activity centered on this wonderful new world of television. The post-war economy was booming. More and more young families were buying their first homes with the aid of VA loans, and Americans were eager to have this new form of family entertainment in their own living rooms. The early television stations began to steal away the actors and writers from older, established radio stations. These writers brought their scripts with them, and suddenly many of the shows that had been favorite radio programs for years were being adapted for television.

The first and longest running TV Talk Show of all time is of course NBC’s classic Meet The Press. This panel discussion program, created by Lawrence Spivak and Martha Rountree, began as a radio show in 1945 and moved to television on November 6, 1947. Martha Rountree was the first moderator of Meet The Press, and remains the only female moderator in the show’s history.
Fast forward to the nineties, this era belonged to the talk shows and daytime syndication. In 1990, there were only six syndicated daytime talk shows. By 1995, there were 23. This is because talk shows are relatively inexpensive to produce, and with success comes tremendous financial rewards. Talk shows have also been relatively easy to sell to stations i.e. as the next Oprah, Ricki, or Rosie. The mid-nineties saw the broadcast networks giving some local daytime slots back to their local affiliates, thus opening up more time for talk shows. Daytime talk show was a very low risk gamble for stations and syndicators alike.

But things began to change in 1998. An already over crowded syndication marketplace spawned a series of multi-year deals for unproven talk shows with a star at the helm like Donny & Marie, Rosranne, etc. At the same, the court genre was resurrecting itself with the success of Judge Judy, and daytime viewers were discovering cable in greater numbers. A decade long parade of celebrity talk including the likes of Sally, Maury, Ricki Lake, Donahue, Inyala, Ananda, Roseanne, and many more left viewers in need of something new and exciting to talk about.

Only few new first-run syndicated hits have emerged in the past few years. During that period, only five shows, Oprah, Judge Judy, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy, and Entertainment Tonight managed to generate a 3.0 average rating among women 18-49 for two consecutive seasons. Only Oprah, Judge Judy, and E.T. managed to break that now lofty barrier this season. As minimum benchmark ratings have consequently declined over the past few years with the influx of cable and other entertainment mediums, it’s becoming harder for new shows to get good clearances as stations would rather go with a tried and true, mostly off-net rather that gambling with first-run. This means, of course, that it is now more difficult than ever for a first run show to see the light of day. However with the success of last years debut Dr. Phil, there still is hope for first-run talk.

The recent track record of talk shows rating-wise has been quite impressive with shows like Oprah and Dr. Phil, the current top two daytime talk shows averaging a 3.9 and a 2.7 respectively with women 18-49. Further down the list we find in women 18-49, Maury, which is currently on a rise with a 2.3, Jerry Springer with a 1.7, Montel also with a 1.7, Ricki Lake with a 1.2, Jenny Jones with a 1.2, John Edwards with a 1.1, Caroline Rhea with a 0.7, etc.

Taking into consideration the above figures and the clearances gained by the three new shows, a case can be made for their placement in the fall schedule. Sharon has been picked up by all Tribune stations (covering more than 40% of the country). It will also be on the over 100 WB station groups. Using LA as a sampling frame, KTLA Channel 5, which is the tribune will be carrying the show. Currently, the KTLA Channel 5 daytime scheduled talk shows start with Maury at 9:00am, Jerry Springer at 10:00am, Jenny Jones at 11:00am, Maury again at 12:00pm and Beyond With James Van Praagh at 1:00pm with an encore at 1:30pm. Maury and Jerry Springer both have characteristics similar to Sharon Osbourne. Sharon has “Class” which Maury definitely has with a bit of “Trash” which Jerry Springer doesn’t lack. The ideal placement of Sharon on the KTLA Channel 5 Fall lineup will be Mon – Fri, 10:00am. Every other show below should be moved one hour later and so does Jerry Springer. Beyond with James Van Praagh is the lowest rated show and thus should be cancelled.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show has announced that it will air on 14 NBC stations around the country. The NBC Television Stations carrying The Ellen DeGeneres Show include: WNBC (New York), KNBC (Los Angeles), WMAQ (Chicago), WCAU (Philadelphia), KNTV (San Jose/San Francisco), KXAS (Dallas/Ft. Worth), WRC (Washington, DC), WTVJ (Miami), KNSD (San Diego), WVIT (Hartford), WNCN (Raleigh), WCMH (Columbus), WVTM (Birmingham) and WJAR (Providence). KNBC (Los Angeles) daytime talk schedule is as follows: The John Walsh Show-12:00pm, The Other Half-3:00pm, and Dr. Phil-4:00pm. The schedule shows that NBC’s talk shows are too far in between. It will make more sense to fill in the gap in order to capitalize on the daytime talk show audience, which are notorious for flow through if the genre stays the same. The Other Half, which when compared to Dr. Phil, is doing poorly should be removed. Dr. Phil should then be moved to 3:00pm and Ellen should be placed at 4:00pm so as to capture Dr. Phil’s lead-out audience.

Currently, there hasn’t been any confirmed O&O pickup of Fergie announced. Due to Ellen’s deal on NBC O&O’s, Fergie will have trouble getting enough clearances to be viable-there aren’t currently any more daytime slots available on network O&Os. It could be delayed until January 2004. Fargie’s placement in Los Angeles will be Ideal on the CBS O&O (KCBS Channel 2) because the very premise behind her show appeals to CBS older demographic, a CBS demographic. KCBS Channel 2 current does not have any talk/variety shows on its daytime schedule. The only show that is similar to and attracts similar audience to talk shows is Judge Judy which airs at 3:00pm Mon-Fri. Fergie will be ideal for the 4:00pm spot as a lead-out to the already highly successful Judge Judy in order to capitalize on its lead-out audience until it gains its footing. The 4 – 6pm local news should be cut down to one hour (5-6pm) in order to make room for Fergie.
Comparing Sharon to the ratings of the previously listed currently airing talk shows, it is very similar in concept and make-up to Oprah, Regis & Kelly, and Caroline Rhea, whose ratings range from Oprah-W18-49 with 3.9 to Caroline Rhea-W18-49 with 0.6. It is safe to predict that Sharon’s ratings will be somewhere in between. Also, the fact that Sharon is new and fresh on the scene will work to her advantage, making her debut rating moocher closer to Oprah’s that Caroline Rhea’s. Sharon should debut with a household rating of about 3.0 and a W18-49 rating of about 2.4.
Ellen on the other hand has been around for a while and is quite a familiarity to American viewers. Her ratings shouldn’t be disappointing. Jerry Springer is a comically hard hitting show which is similar to Ellen’s comedic approach to talk TV. Like Jerry Springer, Ellen will turn out to be a circus fare, which really attracts viewers. Also, being new and fresh on the scene usually works to your advantage. Thus Ellen should have a slightly higher rating than Jerry Springer’s W18-49 rating of 2.7. She should debut around a W18-49 rating of 2.0.

Fergie is probable the only one out of the three that is least known to the American viewers. However, one thing she has going for her is her appeal to viewers over 40 i.e. the CBS crowd. The concept of her show has an Oprah-type feel to it. Fergie also appeals to the older end of Oprah viewers. She should have a moderate debut but as time goes on, Fergie will definitely pick up viewers as the word spreads throughout ‘CBS Land’. Using Oprah’s current ratings as a yardstick for Fergie’s maximum appeal, Fergie should debut with a W18-49 rating of about 1.9 and then gradually soar towards Oprah-like ratings.

All three shows incorporate sound concepts and are backed by some of the best producers/production companies in the business. We are in safe hands. If the history of first-run syndication has taught us anything, it is that successful programming is not a science-it is an art. The more you have the right ingredients in your recipe, the better your chances are. Sharon, Ellen and Fergie definitely have all the right ingredients. All we have to do now is wait and see, hoping that these shows too don’t end up as casualties of the genre.

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