A new daytime television talk show season started without Oprah Winfrey for the first time since 1985 and while total viewership was off slightly from a year ago when the queen was still in her throne, only a handful seemed to have turned off the set.
Overall, 37% of households with televisions on were watching them (but not necessarily Winfrey) Monday during the hour she used to occupy. That's a 3% drop from the day last year. In Los Angeles, 35% were watching television at 3 p.m., Winfrey's old slot, compared with 38% a year ago.
Any look at first-day numbers of a new season have to be taken with a big grain of salt. This season that is especially the case given that CBS' coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament, which led to preemptions for "Dr. Phil" and "Judge Judy," whose programs appear on many of the network's affiliates and owned-stations. "Dr. Phil" was supposed to air an episode featuring relatives of Casey Anthony, who beat a murder rap earlier this summer. That episode will now air today (Tuesday).
Benefiting from the absence of Winfrey was Sony's "Dr. Oz" and Warner Bros. "Ellen." According to a weighted measurement of Nielsen's overnight ratings in the top 56 markets representing 82 million homes, "Ellen" averaged a 2.4 rating, while "Dr. Oz" posted a 2.0 rating. Each rating point represents 1% of those homes. "Regis & Kelly" was on top among talk shows with a 2.9 rating, but it airs in the morning and most of Winfrey's clearances were in mid- to late-afternoon.
In Los Angeles, where "Dr. Oz" took over the Winfrey slot on KABC, the show averaged a 4.1 rating. The season premiere of Winfrey's show last season averaged a 6.8 rating. It was expected that "Dr. Oz" would not deliver the same numbers the premiere of the final season of Winfrey got.
On the surface, the much-anticipated talk show from Warner Bros. starring Anderson Cooper got off to a slow start with a rating of 1.3. However, the show finished first in its time slot in four markets (San Diego, Sacramento, Dallas and Minneapolis). Its biggest challenge will be in the top markets -- New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. In all three, the show suffers from weak programs leading into Cooper's hour.
"The numbers on Anderson are encouraging," said Bill Carroll, a vice president at Katz Television, an industry consulting firm. Carroll said if you look at the ratings on Anderson outside of the top three markets, "you see some decent numbers."
-- Joe Flint
Photo: Clockwise, Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Ellen DeGeneres. Credits: Chris Pizzello / AP; David M. Russell / AP; Kevin Winter / Getty Images