'Dr. Phil' Leads Post-Oprah Race
Newsy guests including Casey Anthony and Winfrey's absence drive ratings way up.
Dr. Phil seems to have the right medisine for daytime-television viewers. Going through Oprah Winfrey withdrawal. Six months into the 2011-12 season -- the first in a quarter-century without Winfrey dominating afternoons -- Dr. Phil has established a firm grip on the top spot among talk shows and has widened its lead in recent weeks. Hosted by Phil McGraw, whose audience is three-quarters female, the show's national season-to-date ratings have jumped 14 percent from last year. They've popped even more in markets including Cincinnati (350 percent) and Tampa (125 percent). Executive producer Carla Pennington credits a tweak to the content of the 10-year-old show "to include much more timely news-oriented programming," starting with a high-rated season opener featuring Casey Anthony. "We're taking the conversation a layer or two deeper," says Pennington, noting that Dr. Phil still tackles such subjects as parenting and relationships, just less often. Katz TV vp/director of programming Bill Carroll traces Dr. Phil's recent rise to some post-Oprah station upgrades and the move of such competitors as Dr. Oz, Judge Judy and Ellen to an hour later. "The competitive environment has changed" in Dr. Phil's favor, says Carroll, adding that the newsy refocus means the show can "deal with topics that were really Oprah's domain, which he might not have dealt with when she was on the scene." For his part, McGraw credits audience engagement for the ratings bump, not any void left by his former mentor Winfrey. "It's viewer interest and feedback that drives our content," he says, citing a new social media marketing campaign. "The results have been some of the best shows in the 10 seasons of Dr. Phil."
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