The Biz: Analyzing the New Talk Show Hosts
by Stephen Battaglio
From daytime to late night, familiar faces are popping up in new places this season. Here’s a progress report on how these hosts are doing in their latest roles.
The addition of the comic actress (and controversial anti-vaccination activist) — the first new cohost on The View since 2007 — hasn’t given Barbara Walters‘s coffee klatch a shot in the arm. ABC must hope that the show’s 11 percent decline in its advertiser-coveted audience of women ages 18 to 49 since McCarthy’s Sept. 9 debut is a matter of viewers adjusting to the transition. The View started to see an uptick during the week of Oct. 28, when it drew its best numbers in eight months in that demographic. But with Elisabeth Hasselbeck gone, the talk show finds itself without a cohost under 40 for the first time, which may be a turnoff for younger viewers.
The view is apparently pretty good from the curvy couch of Fox & Friends. While year-to-year cable-news ratings are mostly down (2012 numbers were pumped up by interest in the presidential campaign), since Hasselbeck took her spot on the Fox News Channel morning program on Sept. 16, Fox & Friends has grown by 9 percent compared with its ratings this year before her arrival. The show has also jumped by 10 percent among viewers ages 25 to 54 (the segment advertisers would like to reach the most with news programming).
Changes to Fox News Channel’s primetime lineup occur less frequently than Supreme Court vacancies. But moving lawyer-turned-anchor Kelly from afternoons to 9pm looks like a wise decision. The Kelly File has averaged 2.3 million viewers since its Oct. 7 premiere, improving the hour by 22 percent compared to former time-slot holder Hannity. The Kelly File even occasionally tops lead-in The O’Reilly Factor among 25- to 54-year-olds. One former cable-news executive isn’t surprised that Kelly has caught on: “She is great-looking and has some intelligent things to say.”
The Emmy-winning 30 Rock star’s penchant for stirring up controversy should have made him an ideal host for cable news, where rage and passion usually equal ratings. But Baldwin has chosen to make his weekly Friday-night salon, MSNBC’s Up Late With Alec Baldwin, a sedate affair, right down to its Charlie Rose-like black background. Up Late opened to a respectable 654,000 viewers on Oct. 11, but it dropped 40 percent, to 395,000, by Week 5. It may not matter in the long run as MSNBC insiders believe it’s unlikely Baldwin will come back from his suspension for his use of a gay slur towards a photographer. Maybe we’ll see his stalker on MSNBC’s Lockup when it returns to the time period.
Late night’s comeback kid had to be whooping it up in September, when the premiere-week ratings for his new syndicated The Arsenio Hall Show outperformed all his late-night competition among viewers ages 18 to 49. While the show has since slipped, averaging 1.1 million viewers overall, its audience is younger than those of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and Late Show With David Letterman, a very appealing factor to advertisers. Executives at Tribune Broadcasting, which airs Arsenio on its stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other big cities, are said to be pleased with the show’s performance, a good sign that it will be renewed for a second season.
Cedric the Entertainer
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has acquired more of a party atmosphere since the Original Kings of Comedy tour veteran took over hosting duties from Meredith Vieira. Ratings have held up, which suggests that Vieira fans who stopped watching have been replaced by Cedric followers. In recent weeks, the Disney/ABC syndicated game show has matched its season high of 3 million total viewers. Says a Disney insider, “It’s definitely heading in the right direction.”