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Ellen DeGeneres, the New Oprah

4 years ago
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"Ellen is a much more likable personality than Oprah," according to newly released media research commissioned months ago by Warner Brothers, the company that produces "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." In a post-Oprah daytime, a new diva must be crowned, and Ellen is the heir apparent.

But apparently Warner Brothers didn't want anybody to know about the talk show host's obvious meteoric rise (Hello? "American Idol") because TV executives are suddenly "sensitive about comparisons of the two women."

Since DeGeneres appeared with Winfrey on the cover of O Magazine the very same month the talk-show meta star announced she'd be retiring from the Oprah Show in 2011, there's been speculation that instead of doing battle with her competition, Winfrey had decided to pass the baton (sort of like what was supposed to happen with late-night hosts Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien). Winfrey has shared the cover of her magazine only one other time in its history, and that was with the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama.In a recent New York Times article, research suggested that "'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' was, for the first time, on par with 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' (and, in some cases, exceeding 'Oprah') in the minds of viewers." According to the Times, DeGeneres was "the first big bet on the post-Winfrey landscape," with Warner Brothers announcing this week that the company would extend her show's contract through to 2014.

With an average of about 3.1 million viewers a day, "The Ellen Show" still only has about half the audience "The Oprah Show" does with 6.5 viewers a day, but DeGeneres' star is on a steady climb. According to the article, "'Ellen' has demonstrated growth" despite "industry-wide declines."

None of this is a huge surprise to those who've watched the openly gay comedienne climb out of obscurity after being shunned by Hollywood when she came out in 1997, and returning to TV land and the rest of the world in her sitcom, "Ellen." The show was canceled a year later and the talented actress spent the next few years flopping about from one terrible movie ("Mr. Wrong" anyone?) to the next. Just being herself, it seems, is her calling. "The Ellen Show" does well in daytime, according to the experts, because "is upbeat and inspirational, two traits that appeal to daytime's core female audience." What a difference a decade makes.

The only thing I found extremely puzzling in the Times piece was this line: "TV executives are sensitive about comparisons of the two women," which the Times does not qualify or explain. Instead, it compounds that theory with the aside, ". . . and there is ample evidence that the hosts are friendly with each other." Are TV executives afraid the claws will come out when they compare the two women, as they did recently among the totally non-catty cads of late night?

Are we to assume that ratings and/or time-slot wars -- like the train wreck that was "Late Night" with Jay or Conan or Who Knows? -- always end in bloodshed when the broads get involved? Because it seems all the evidence provided speaks to the contrary.

Winfrey is moving on to head up her own cable channel, named OWN, which unsuccessfully wooed DeGeneres. And DeGeneres -- talk show host, CoverGirl commercial star, and new judge on "American Idol" -- also has plenty to do besides worry about "comparisons between two women." I guess when the checks are big enough, big egos are in check.
Filed Under: Woman Up

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