Who will win the prize slot when Oprah leaves?


There's still about 19 months until "The Oprah Winfrey Show" leaves the air, but TV stations are already plotting how to grab some of her 7 million daily viewers. The Hollywood Reporter's Alex Ben Block consulted with ad buyers Bill Carroll, vp and director of programming for Katz Television Group, and David Scardino, entertainment specialist at the RPA ad agency, for some insight -- and to calculate odds on which shows are the favorites.

The Ellen DeGeneres Show
Syndicated, Warner Bros.
ODDS: 1-2 (leading contender)
PLUS: Oprah-like qualities (warm, smart, nice, inspiring, non-threatening).
MINUS: Less-incisive interviewer, less likely to break news. Young audience may not stay to watch local news. Also committed to Fox's "American Idol."
EQUATION: Her show is contracted by NBC stations in major markets, but they don't pay a premium, which could put Warner Bros. in line to bump fees by moving her to the ABC O&Os or upgrading time slots.

Judge Judy
Syndicated, CBS Television Distribution
ODDS: 2-1
PLUS: Already beats Oprah in some markets; a well-established brand. Liked and respected, attracts female viewers. Audience likely to stick around for news.
MINUS: Tough-cookie stance puts some viewers off; limited to appeal of court shows. No celebrities, not a newsmaker.
EQUATION: Her show is contracted through 2012; has a program produced by CBS, which also owns the major market stations on which she airs.

The Dr. Oz Show
Syndicated, Harpo Prods. and Sony Pictures Television
ODDS: 3-1
PLUS: Has Oprah pedigree, is a real physician/best-selling author. Addresses sexy topics, but message resonates with a culture concerned about health and living right.
MINUS: Blunt, graphic, sometimes sensationalistic. Less an entertainer than a lecturer.
EQUATION: "Dr. Oz" has only been on Fox stations since September, so the show isn't a well-established brand. Sony may find it risky to move so quickly after his launch, but if his ratings build, the show could bring them a bonanza at renewal time.

More local news
Locally produced and owned by stations
ODDS: 5-1
PLUS: Easily done, can be a short-term fix.
MINUS: Many competitors already run news. Unlikely to attract 7 million viewers.
EQUATION: This may be an easy solution for ABC O&Os until the next TV savior rises to command these crucial time slots. It is a lower-cost solution and leaves future options open.

Dr. Phil
Syndicated, Harpo Prods. and CBS Television Distribution
ODDS: 10-1
PLUS: Oprah pedigree, strong brand and loyal following.
MINUS: In-your-face style isn't for everyone. Few celebrity guests, no newsmakers.
EQUATION: He is tied up on CBS O&Os for at least three more years, and CBS will be loath to offer him to competitors. His ratings have declined recently, which will scare off stations seeking a quick fix.

The View
ABC, Barwall Prods. and ABC
ODDS: 15-1
PLUS: A proven brand, with female hosts who attract an intelligent, news-watching audience. Features newsmakers and celebrities.
MINUS: Might need to be retooled for a broader afternoon audience; might not attract enough males who watch the news.
THE EQUATION: ABC could make this move easily and "View" would be a solid replacement, though unlikely to hold all of Oprah's viewers. It could provide Disney a new syndicated product.
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