Is Oprah Overrated? Gordon Ramsay vs. Oprah Winfrey: Who Ya Got?

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April 16th, 2008

Oprah WinfreyIs Oprah overrated? One thing about the Nielsen ratings - love them or hate them, there is no overrated, just...rated. Oprah is an established media behemoth and of that we are certain. But I'm an early adopting, high-tech gadget, iPhone loving fanboy. I can remember when Yahoo looked at Google and thought. "Them? Pssh." Those days are long gone.

I'm going to create a rivalry where none actually exists and compare her with an up-and-comer who likely has nowhere near the Q Score of Ms. Winfrey. What he does have, however is a bigger 18-49 year old audience than Ms. Winfrey, and whether CBS chief Les Moonves likes it or not [he doesn't] that is an important demographic for the advertisers.

Gordon Ramsay on FOX’s Hell’s KitchenThat man is Gordon Ramsay who has a reality show on FOX called Hell's Kitchen. Ramsay is blazing a path towards his own higher Q score and also has another show called Kitchen Nightmares on FOX. He has other shows that run on BBC as well. I can't keep up with them all and personally, I only pay attention to Hell's Kitchen. The guy has been working hard for quite a while now, and it's paying off.

There's not really any fair way to compare a guy who has a primetime reality show with a woman who has a daytime talk show, but fortunately ABC gave her a primetime reality show and allowed me to look at something that's probably only interesting to me and 5 other people -- including Ramsay and Winfrey.

The comparison isn't quite fair because Oprah's Big Give has aired 7 times already and will only have one more episode, and I have only three of week's worth of Hell's Kitchen data and only 2 weeks as far as the season averages. But I wanted to get an early read in the imaginary Gordon Ramsay vs. Oprah feud. When Hell's Kitchen finishes up I'll do a final comparison as it's possible, as was certainly the case with Oprah's Big Give that HK's ratings could erode as the season progresses. They indeed already seem to be eroding.

But first, let's look at Oprah and her Big Give. She started out strong in the premiere, and then tailed off considerably the following week, but that's fairly normal. Premieres get lots of promotion, and people check them out and bleed off. Also, factoring in was an earlier than normal switch to Daylight Savings Time, starting with the second episode on March 9.

Air Date Rating Share 18-49 Viewers (m) Weekly Rank
2-Mar-08 9.4 14 5.3/12 15.55 #4
9-Mar-08 7.4 11 4.0/10 11.8 #10
16-Mar-08 6 9 3.6/9 9.71 #18
23-Mar-08 6.1 10 3.5/9 9.92 #19
30-Mar-08 7.1 11 3.9/9 11.35 #13
6-Apr-08 5.9 9 3.2/8 9.42 #29
13-Apr-08 5.6 9 2.9/9 8.88 #27
20-Apr-08 6.3 10 3.2 10.09 #21

After the second week, ratings got into more or less a normal pattern, but with the April 13 episode the big O was disadvantaged because rather than being on at 9pm with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition as its lead-in, OBG was moved to 8pm and served as the lead-in for the return of Desperate Housewives (which, with 16+ million viewers experienced series-low ratings). Chalk up at least a large portion of the drop from April 6 to April 13 to moving to 8pm. At the end of a weekend with Daylight Savings Time in effect, 8pm is certainly worse than 9pm.

Now let's move to Ramsay and Hell's Kitchen.

Air Date Rating Share 18-49 Viewers (m) Weekly Rank
1-Apr-08 7.5 11 5.7/14 12.55 #16
8-Apr-08 6.9 10 5.4/13 11.63 #19
15-Apr-08 6.3 9 4.7/12 10.56  

While Extreme Makeover: Home Edition is a great lead-in and one of ABC's most watched shows (and itself routinely beats Oprah both in terms of overall viewers and 18-49 viewers), Hell's Kitchen has an even better lead-in. A little show I like to call American Idol. The one thing that surprised me is something bordering on dominance when it comes to 18-49 year olds.

Through all seven OBG episodes and just the first two episodes of HK, the shows were tied in a tie as the 35th most watched shows based on overall household rating, but in 18-49 ranking, Oprah's Big Give was #28, and Hell's Kitchen was #8.

Hell's Kitchen is going to drop next week no matter what happens with Oprah, because last night, up against the finale of NBC's The Biggest Loser it lost .7 of an 18-49 ratings point from the previous week. But prior to that episode was averaging 7.03 million 18-49 year old viewers to Oprah's 4.93 million or almost 43% more 18-49 year old viewers than Oprah.

I honestly expected more from Oprah. Not personally, just ratings-wise. I figured she would be a ratings beast, and tied for 35th overall and 28th in the demo isn't shabby - any network would take it - it's just not the dominance I thought Oprah could flex in the national Nielsen ratings. Apparently like me and CBS, Oprah is skewing older.

Or maybe, watching a raving madman who can also cook curse out a bunch of people acting like idiots (sometimes, no doubt because they are) competing for a cool job is just better television than the feel-good Big Give. I know for me it is. I'm not terribly proud of it, but I'm not ashamed either.

Oprah of course has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of here, and a lot to be proud of, but when it comes to the Nielsen ratings she isn't the beast I thought she would be.

We'll revisit this after Hell's Kitchen season completes and make some final comparisons. There's one huge piece of data I'm missing here and will likely never see: how much did Oprah get paid? I know somebody who is way more likely to find that data and his name is Gordon Ramsay.

Oprah's Big Give is a really nice idea but "You either give big or go home!" for me, just doesn't have the same ring to it as, "Give me your jacket, and get out of Hell's Kitchen!"

P.S. Ramsay is really no up-and-comer, that was more than a bit in jest. He's been hard at work for a while and already a restaurant mogul, with a company that owns and manages a bunch of restaurants and he has other endeavors as well, in addition to being media hit now both in the UK and the USA. You can read more about Ramsay and his restaurants on his web site.

All #'s based on live viewing plus same day DVR viewing. Weekly rankings used in the data tables were based on household ratings rankings and not total viewers.

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2008 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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