"The Oprah Winfrey Show" ended her syndicated show with her biggest ratings in almost two decades -- something movie companies in particular anticipated in buying lots of TV commercials.
Heading into the big summer film season, movie companies rode the popular syndicated talk show to strong results, including Disney's "Cars 2," Dreamworks' "Kung Fu Panda 2," Warner Bros.'s "Crazy Stupid Love," Universal's "Bridesmaids," Paramount's "Super 8", Sony Entertainment's "Zookeeper" and 20th Century Fox's "Mr. Popper's Penguins."
"The Oprah Winfrey Show" pulled in its best viewership in 17 years -- and about double its current regular-season average. Rough estimates are that Nielsen will reveal that the 25-year-old show pulled in around 18 million viewers for its last episode -- a figure that soars over the show's current seasonal average this year, around 7.4 million viewers.
The "Oprah" finale was actually three shows -- the first two with celebrities in the United Center, and the last with Winfrey alone with her usual studio audience saying goodbye. On a Nielsen household rating, the last show pulled in a 13.3 rating, following up on a 10.7 number on Tuesday and a 10.2 rating on Monday. Her regular-season household ratings averaged about a 5.5.
While many advertisers crowded in for Oprah's last show, Chet Fenster, managing partner and director of content creation for Group M's MEC Entertainment, was struck by the number of movie advertisers that appeared.
He says virtually all films being marketed were female-skewing and/or family movies looking for major attention from Winfrey's appearance. "It was the Super Bowl for women," he says.
For years, Oprah's program was where movie stars would appear to tout their films --- and where the show enjoyed some of its highest ratings and revenue gains. Fenster says movie marketers will now have to find another home. "I'm guessing someone like 'Ellen' will probably pick up the slack," he said.
He says "Oprah" was a bigger marketing tool for film marketers than early-morning or late-night TV shows, where movies might only get a short five- or six-minute segment. By contrast, "Oprah" could devote nearly a full hour of content for a film's cast or a major movie star.
"Oprah" was not the only show to close the TV season with a big bang. Later that Wednesday night, TV's biggest-rated show, Fox's "American Idol" -- which also pulled in many summer film commercials -- took in a big 29.3 million viewers and a high 9.2 rating/25 share among adult 18-49 viewers.
This was good news for Fox, as the 10-year-old show was up versus last season's finale: a 12% gain in adults 18-49 and a 21% improvement. A year ago, the "Idol" finale grabbed an 8.2 adults 18-49 rating and 24.2 million average viewers.