'Bethenny' Talk Show Ratings See Sharp Drop After Strong Start

6:10 PM PST 06/19/2012 by Alex Ben Block
Adam Olszewski/Bravo
"Bethenny Frankel"

But in its test on six Fox stations, the new talk show still averages higher ratings than her lead-in or the shows she replaced in the time period.

A week into the six-week test run of the syndicated talk show Bethenny on six Fox TV stations, there is cause for both concern and celebration.

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The concern is that the show hosted by former Real Housewives of New York star Bethenny Frankel dropped from a strong 1.9 rating and 7 percent share of the audience across all the test markets on its first day on the air, June 11, to as low as a 0.9 rating and 3 percent share of the audience Thursday.

That suggests the show got a big sampling, especially among the target audience of women ages 25 to 54, after which many of them decided not to return. The show ended the week with a 1.2 rating and 4 percent share Friday.

The cause for celebration on the talker, backed by Frankel’s friend Ellen DeGeneres and produced by Warner Bros., is that even at about a 1 rating, Bethenny improved on the 0.5 average that the same stations had been doing in that same time period with repeats of Nate Berkus, Divorce Court or Dr. Oz.

Another cause for optimism is that Bethenny did especially well among the 25- to 54-year-old women in New York -- as one would expect since it is where she is best known -- but also in Philadelphia and in Minnesota.

She did not do nearly as well in Los Angeles, Phoenix or Dallas, the other cities in the test. In L.A., Bethenny averaged only a 0.7/2 for its first week on KTTV, which was about the same as the show that had been in that period a year earlier.

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Across all the stations for the first six days of its run, Bethenny averaged a 0.9/7, which improved slightly on the program that led into hers, which was a 0.8/6. In New York, she averaged a 1.3/10, which improved on her lead-in (Wendy Williams' talk show), which averaged a 0.8/7 for the week.

What all this means is that Frankel is off to a reasonable start and is attracting the right audience, but it's still not a sure thing. Ultimately, Fox will decide after the test run about whether to program the show on a more permanent basis, but so far there is reason to think the Housewife might make it as a yakker.

Frankel, who calls herself “the queen of too much information,” certainly has lived up to her billing on the shows so far. She has discussed everything from having a miscarriage to masturbation to being willing to have an open relationship with her husband.

Audiences are either going to love this or run in the other direction. As a critic for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer put it after her first program, “It was an entertaining hour of daytime television, but ultimately, Frankel is going to need to find the balance between fun, inappropriate approach and shamelessly trying too hard.”

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Overall, last week was a soft one for many shows in syndication as the summertime blahs set in. Returns of Dr. Phil were tops among all talk shows (as has been the case for months), and it was the only show to improve on the prior week (up 4 percent to a 2.6 rating). Dr. Oz was about flat with the prior week, while Live! With Kelly, Maury and Ellen also suffered small audience declines for the week.

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