Dear Oprah, I Think You Can Relax About the Ratings, But...

Categories: Syndicated TV Ratings And News

Written By

August 11th, 2008

...because you're Oprah, everyone wants to take you down a peg or two. I've availed myself to that as well a time or two, as clearly in primetime Ms. Winfrey is no Gordon Ramsay. But the number one question we've probably received from the press over the last 6 months is "Did Oprah lending support to Obama hurt her ratings." At this point if I bring one of these questions to Bill, he gets quite irritated (Bill is our guru for syndie ratings).

Now our pal Aaron Barnhart is jumping on the bandwagon with data that suggests outside of a few top markets, Oprah was down dramatically year over year even during May sweeps when she ran new episodes. Aaron asks if Oprah jumped the shark when she supported Obama.

We're huge fans of TVBarn, and I am grateful to Aaron for spurring me to watch gems such as The Wire and Mad Men. But I remain unconvinced that there is a ratings problem for Ms. Winfrey. We don't have any data to support Oprah's ratings getting trashed because of Obama or really getting trashed at all, otherwise I'd be running "The Demise of Oprah" posts almost every day, I'm sure! Bill tried to slice the data we had about 30 different ways and came up with nothing conclusive.

I can't tell you that there is not any correlation whatsoever, only that with the data we look at there isn't any. We see the national live + SD averages for all airings and when I take a week from this past May and compare it with the same week last year, we don't see much ratings attrition (in fact, it's WAY worse for Dr. Phil), but as I have no idea what aired that week or what interruptions might have happened in local markets, I can't make anything out of it other than it doesn't look so bad for Oprah.

5/14-5/20/07 vs. 5/12-5/18/08:

Show HH 5/07 (Millions) HH 5/08 P2+ 5/07 P2+ 5/08
Oprah 6.74 6.62 7.83 7.72
Wheel 8.20 7.84 11.00 10.59
Jeopardy 6.43 6.60 8.34 8.80
Judge Judy 5.06 5.30 7.72 8.16
Dr. Phil 5.66 4.82 6.79 5.69

All of the numbers above are household and total viewer numbers in millions for the average of all airings (live+SD for the week). When you factor in the DVR sample was probably too small in '07, with LIVE viewing plus same day and an additional 6 days worth of DVR viewing, things look even better for Oprah. But even on a live+SD basis, she was only down 1.4% year over year for that week. Wheel of Fortune was down more than twice as much on a percentage basis (3.7%), and poor Dr. Phil -- down 16.2% for that week.

I'm not too worried about Oprah, Phil or Pat Sajak, but of the three, Phil's definitely in way worse shape, just looking at one week worth of May sweeps.

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