With "The Oprah Winfrey Show" now off the air, syndication talkers have grabbed bigger-than-expected ratings during the first two weeks of the season.
Winfrey's prodigy "Dr. Phil," from CBS Television Distribution, scored its highest season premiere numbers in seven years. Sony Pictures Television's "Dr. Oz" was up over 60% week to week. Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution's "Ellen" also grew 50% in its second week - after having its best season premiere ever. Even Warner Bros. newcomer "Anderson" added 25% more viewers week to week.
Not only that but ABC's "The Chew," a studio audience show about food, has averaged some 2.5 million viewers in the first couple of days, with competitive numbers -- 732,000 -- in key women 25-54 viewers.
Analysts had said it would be difficult to figure out where "Oprah's" ratings points would land. Some figured they would head to cable's OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. But that is not the case so far, with OWN remaining a work in progress. Oprah Winfrey herself isn't visible on OWN -- though it appears that will change in the coming months.
What is going on?
Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate media director for Horizon Media, says: "Oprah leaving helped free up some valuable time periods that needed to be filled. Some stations opted for local news and that may have helped other stations that air talk shows as well."
Viewers are surely on the prowl. But the key is what happens when Winfrey figures out that her cable network's financial survival counts on creating more Dr. Phils, Dr. Oz's, and Rachel Rays, plus using existing talk personalities who still have plenty of value left -- namely, Oprah Winfrey.