After ‘Ellen,’ a Noisy Fight to Crown the New Daytime Talk Show Darling

Kelly Clarkson is Ellen DeGeneres' heir apparent, but that's only if Sherri Shepherd, Karamo Brown, and Tamron Hall don't get there first.
Syndicated daytime talk shows
The syndicated daytime talk show scene is getting crowded, even as Ellen leaves.

It’s a new day in daytime TV. On Thursday, Ellen DeGeneres left the syndicated talk-show airwaves after 19 years  — and that leaves Kelly Clarkson on the starting block, poised to make a run for first place against longtime leaders “Dr. Phil” and “Live With Kelly & Ryan.”

Clarkson will take the “Ellen” slot this fall (and on June 6 in the Chicago, Dallas, Hartford, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, and San Diego markets, IndieWire has learned). Her show, like “Ellen” and “Maury,” averages a 0.4 rating among women 25-54 this season, the key demo for ad sales on syndicated daytime talk shows. “Wendy Williams,” which was guest-hosted this season by a stable of fill-ins including Sherri Shepherd (who gets her own show this fall), also averaged a 0.4 rating.

That means they all tie for third place in daytime’s syndicated talk space, but three of those four aired their series finales. Clarkson’s show is the only one continuing  this fall, much to the delight of Tracie Wilson, the executive VP of NBCUniversal’s Syndication Studios (and “E! News”). “Kelly is an incredible talent,” Wilson told IndieWire. “We look forward to continuing the success and momentum. We are really excited about the direction we are headed.”

Clarkson isn’t the only competitor, of course; she won’t even be the only “American Idol” alumnus. Jennifer Hudson, who placed seventh on the same singing competition in 2004, is launching her own talk show — and we were treated to a live, on-stage preview of it last week during the Warner Bros. Discovery upfront at Madison Square Garden.

“Treated” may be the wrong word. J. Hud struggled, including a teleprompter tussle when introducing HGTV and Magnolia mega-stars Chip and Joanna Gaines. The nascent host did her best to cover up awkward moments by hitting impromptu high notes, but even Jennifer Hudson can only sing so much. She also had a few moments of charm, but beyond her rendition of “Respect,” we’re not so sure Hudson earned the r-e-s-p-e-c-t of the advertising community.

It probably didn’t help that Hudson opened her hosting foray by declaring “I am the future.” She did not take care, TCB.

“Live! With Kelly and Ryan,” airs weekdays in syndication on ABC.
“Live! With Kelly and Ryan,” airs weekdays in syndication on ABC.(ABC/Paula Lobo)

Also in the future is Karamo Brown, a regular fill-in for Maury Povich but perhaps best known for “Queer Eye.” Wilson said she hopes to replicate Clarkson’s success with Brown’s show, which she will also oversee. “His unique background and life experiences make him the perfect host in this space,” Wilson said. “The syndication marketplace is ever-changing and growing, and as the saying goes, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’”

Newish newcomers include Tamron Hall and Drew Barrymore. Hall is doing well in ratings and Barrymore is not, although she’s been renewed through 2023 on sheer star power alone. Below are the season-to-date standings for syndicated daytime-TV talk shows, among women 25-54.

1. “Live with Kelly and Ryan”: 0.7
2. “Dr. Phil”: 0.6
3. (tie) “Ellen”: 0.4
3. (tie) “Kelly Clarkson”: 0.4
3. (tie) “Maury”:  0.4
3. (tie) “Wendy Williams*”: 0.4 (*with guest hosts all season)
7. (tie) “Tamron Hall”: 0.3
7. (tie) “Rachael Ray”: 0.3
7. (tie) “Steve Wilkos”: 0.3
10. (tie) “Drew Barrymore”: 0.2
10. (tie) “Nick Cannon”: 0.2
10. (tie) “The Real”: 0.2
13. (tie) “The Good Dish”: 0.1
13. (tie) “Jerry Springer”: 0.1
13. (tie) “The Doctors”: 0.1

If those numbers don’t strike you as impressive, well, they’re not.

“It’s not so simple out there,” said Mort Marcus, the co-president of Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury. “Ratings are harder to come by.”

THE KELLY CLARKSON SHOW -- Episode 1180 -- Pictured: Kelly Clarkson -- (Photo by: Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal)
Kelly Clarkson is a rising — and bankable — star in the syndicated daytime talk show space.Weiss Eubanks/NBCUniversal

Of course, it’s all relative. Fortunately, CPMs (cost per thousand viewers, as paid by advertisers) are still rising because advertisers need to find ratings points in a fragmented world, which is “helping the business overall,” Marcus said — just in time for his company to move on from “Wendy” with “Sherri.” So how do you survive in this low-rated, fragmented environment?

“You do the best you can in the broadcast world, you get a diginet (like ‘Wendy Williams’ did with a simulcast on Bounce TV) to compliment it,” he said. “Exploit the show on YouTube and Facebook and other social media platforms, and you try to add all of that together to try to come up with something that is a profitable business.”

Profitability in the space comes through multiple revenue streams: a cash fee paid by stations to carry the program; the TV ad revenue split with those stations; viral clips that produce social media ad revenue; product integration (Wayfair has just what Clarkson needs), and the ongoing struggle to keep production and talent costs relatively low.

“Our hope with Sherri is that she hits a chord and somehow becomes a show that you feel like you’ve gotta watch,” Marcus said. “This is all hard to do but with Sherri we feel like we have the right talent to do it.”

Don’t take Marcus’ word for it — ask his competition. “The Good Dish,” the “Dr. Oz” replacement that starred the daughter of the cardiothoracic surgeon-turned talk show host-turned U.S. Senate candidate, has been cancelled — as have “Nick Cannon” (which was also a Debmar-Mercury show), “The Real,” and “The Doctors.”

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