ABC wondering if 'The View' would be better in the afternoons
That's what the folks at Walt Disney Co.'s ABC are wondering. With Oprah Winfrey leaving daytime television in September 2011 to focus on OWN, the cable network she is partnering on with Discovery Communications, there's a lot of jockeying for her position going on in television-land.
Winfrey's show is syndicated, meaning that it is not tied to a network and instead is sold to individual television stations across the country. But her show is carried on ABC's big-market TV stations, including WABC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles and WLS in Chicago and lots of ABC affiliates across the country. In other words, it is ABC, its stations and affiliates that are most concerned about filling the void that will be created by Winfrey's exit.
While there has been a lot of attention surrounding Ellen DeGeneres and whether her distributor Warner Bros. would try to move her show to ABC stations in big cities (it currently plays on NBC stations in the top markets, including KNBC in Los Angeles) when Winfrey hits the road, another scenario making the rounds has ABC trying to move "The View" into Winfrey's time slots.
This would be incredibly complex for myriad reasons. First of all, "The View," which airs in the morning, is a network show, meaning it is only carried on ABC stations. If ABC wanted to move "The View" to the afternoon in Winfrey's time slots as a network show, it would need to persuade its TV stations to give back an hour of time that they currently control.
That would be a hard sell. When a local station carries a syndicated show such as Winfrey or DeGeneres, it gets more commercial inventory (about 10 minutes) to sell than it would with a network show (about two minutes). If ABC did want to move "The View," it probably would have to give up more advertising time to its stations to seal a deal. On top of that, not every station carries Winfrey in the afternoon. In Chicago, she airs at 9 a.m.Another option, although less likely, would be for ABC would be to swap "The View" with "General Hospital," which typically airs at 3 p.m. on most of its stations. The risk there is that "General Hospital" has been running in the afternoon forever and a move to late mornings could severely hurt the show, which is one of the few remaining soap operas.
ABC is also studying whether to try to turn "The View" into a syndicated show. That would mean selling it to individual stations for cash and commercial inventory. ABC affiliates might get upset by the idea of losing the show to the highest bidder, although there is a potential of bigger bucks for ABC and parent Walt Disney Co.
The plus side of turning "The View" into a syndicated show or moving it as a network show is that late afternoon shows have potential to earn more money than shows that run in the morning.
The dangers in all this are fairly obvious. "The View" is working at a mid-morning chat show. It averages about 4 million viewers and of those, more than 1 million are women 25-54. Winfrey gets a bigger audience and it seems unlikely that "The View" would grow a whole lot more running in the afternoon. ABC could end up damaging a successful franchise. If it also moved "General Hospital" as well, it could jeopardize two shows.
"You can’t take something that is working in one place and transplant it somewhere else and assume it will have the same degree of success," warns Bill Carroll, vice president, Katz Television, an industry consulting group.
In other words, look at what NBC just went through with Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno and ask if yourself if the potential rewards are worth the potential screw-ups.
-- Joe Flint
Photo: "The View's" Joy Behar, left, Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd. Credit: Bob D'amico / ABC