Ellen’s show lost a million viewers and its future is in jeopardy

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Last Summer, Ellen DeGeneres’ tightly controlled bubble popped when allegations of a toxic work environment went wide. Her less-than-pleasant work personality been an open secret in Hollywood for years, but the story blew up in a Buzzfeed expose. For months we didn’t know if her show would be canceled or if Ellen would be replaced. In the end, Ellen used her first in studio show since her COVID hiatus to apologize for what she claimed she had just learned. The apology was met with a mixed response. After three key firings, the matter was seemingly swept under the rug and forgotten. Or was it? Because according to Ellen’s Neilson ratings, Ellen lost over a million viewers. That is such a drop it calls the future of her show into question.

Viewers tuned in for the apology: This year’s season opener had the highest ratings for an “Ellen” premiere in four years. And then they tuned out. “Ellen” has lost more than a million viewers since September, according to the research firm Nielsen, averaging 1.5 million viewers over the last six months, down from 2.6 million in the same period last year.

The show’s loss of more than a million viewers translates to a 43 percent decline, representing a steeper drop than any of its competitors. This TV season, “Ellen,” the winner of dozens of Emmys since its start in 2003, is no longer in the same league as traditional rivals like “Dr. Phil” (2.5 million) and “Live: With Kelly and Ryan” (2.7 million). Now it finds itself uncomfortably close to shows hosted by Maury Povich (1.4 million), Kelly Clarkson (1.3 million), Rachael Ray (1.2 million), Tamron Hall (1.1 million) and Jerry Springer’s former security guard Steve Wilkos (1.1 million).

The loss of viewers includes a 38 percent decline in her core audience, adult women under 54, according to Nielsen. And it appears to have put a dent in the show’s ad revenue.
From September to January of the 2019-20 season, “Ellen” brought in $131 million from advertisers, according to the research firm Kantar. That has fallen to $105 million for the same period in 2020-21, a drop of about 20 percent.

Ms. DeGeneres, 63, has publicly mused on the possibility of leaving the show in recent years, and the spotlight on her workplace troubles has added to the questions about her future. Her talk-show contract runs through next year.

Warner Bros., the division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia that produces “Ellen,” confirmed that the show would return for a 19th season in September, after her usual summer hiatus. A spokeswoman for Ms. DeGeneres declined to comment when asked if the 2021-22 television season would be her last.

“‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ remains one of the top three highest-rated syndicated talk shows this season,” David McGuire, an executive vice president of programming at Telepictures, a Warner Bros. subsidiary, said in a statement. He suggested other reasons for the decline, like changing viewing habits during the pandemic.

“While broadcast is down across the board and Covid has been challenging for production, we are looking forward to bringing back our live audiences and a 19th season filled with all of the hilarious and heartwarming moments that have made ‘Ellen’ one of the longest running and most successful talk shows in history,” he added.

[From The New York Times]

The article points out that even if the show drops, Ellen is so far in bed with WarnerMedia, she has little to worry about from a business perspective. She has several shows in the works with them like that new Kristen Bell game show she’s producing. In addition, she’s got a separate deal with Discovery. Most of us felt Ellen would handle the situation exactly like she did, with a semi-culpable apology, some public firings and that’s it. So I’m glad the show is getting hit where it hurts. Ellen’s handling of this mess has shown that she wants the controversy to go away, not that she wants to improve. Plus, her show is stale anyway. As Kaiser’s been saying for a while, Ellen seems over it.

The last part of the article addresses Ellen’s attempt to cling on to her reputation:

As Ms. DeGeneres fights through a loss in popularity, she has turned to celebrity friends to help her make the case that there is not much difference between the on-camera Ellen and the real Ellen. When Michelle Obama was a virtual guest last week, she spoke warmly about the time she went to Ms. DeGeneres’s house and they played a piano duet together. A video clip of the pair at the piano was shown.

Another recent guest, Jennifer Garner, also appearing remotely, raced to her hotel room balcony at the host’s request to tell passers-by how much she adored Ms. DeGeneres. “I love her!” Ms. Garner shouted. “She’s kind! She’s a humanitarian! She loves animals!”

This reminds me of her high school reunion show, which was when I started to change my opinion of Ellen. She couldn’t attend her reunion in Texas, so she paid to have everyone come to her studio. It was so uncomfortable. When she greeted them, she was clearly uncomfortable as they approached her, which they had obviously been coached to do. She even pushed a few back. She spent the rest of show asking her classmates to talk about her. Every time they tried to veer from the subject of her, she’d bring them back. And it wasn’t in a talk show way, either. It felt like the conversation she would’ve had had if she’d gone to the reunion in person. I honestly think all those celebrities that issued those terrible “Ellen is great” statements when things were going down this summer were doing so because she asked them to.

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