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Sinking ratings create real problem for Dr. Phil

January 28, 2009 |  4:00 pm

Dr_phil_ibme7okf_250 Dr. Phil often counsels his troubled guests to "get real." But this season the syndicated talk-show guru has gotten an unwelcome dose of reality himself, in the form of plummeting TV ratings.

National ratings for "Dr. Phil" have plunged 27% compared with last season, to an average of 4.5 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. That's the worst performance by far of any major syndicated talk show this year. By comparison, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" is up 11% to 3 million viewers, while the No. 1 "The Oprah Winfrey Show" — on which Dr. Phil rose to prominence in the late 1990s — has slipped 8% to 6.6 million.   

Worse, "Dr. Phil" has posted its steepest declines among the women who make up his core viewership. The show has lost fully one-third of its women viewers ages 18 to 49, compared with last year (to a current 1.6 rating), largely erasing the program's once-overwhelming advantages against competitors such as "Ellen DeGeneres," "Live With Regis and Kelly" and "Maury."

Asked to comment on the ratings, a spokeswoman for CBS Television Distribution, which syndicates the show, replied with a statement: "We see the ratings decline as a problem shared by the industry." Only 2 out of 12 talk shows have seen ratings gains this year, "so 'Dr. Phil' is not alone," the statement added.  "While 'Dr. Phil' may be facing some decline, it has ranked second only to 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' for 329 out of 330 weeks." This month, "Dr. Phil" has shown some improvement, although its ratings are still not as high as last year's.

The ratings woes for Dr. Phil add to the problems faced by the TV syndication business, whose economy-whipped executives have been gathering in Las Vegas this week for the annual National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention.

— Scott Collins   

(Photo courtesy Michael Yarish / CBS)

 

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