Oprah’s Departure Leads to Tighter Ratings Races

By Merrill Knox Comment

The departure of Oprah Winfrey from daytime television last summer has resulted in more competitive ratings battles in top markets across the U.S., Brian Stelter of the New York Times writes:

In New York, for instance, WABC’s replacement for Ms. Winfrey’s show, an hour of local news at 4 p.m., has averaged about half as many viewers as the talk show did. The decline has brought down the 5 p.m. hour as well; in May, WABC’s long winning streak at that hour was broken by WCBS. “We started our 5 o’clock newscasts here in New York in 1982, and this is the first time we are No. 1,” said Peter Dunn, the president and general manager of WCBS.

In many local markets, the “Oprah” time slots were filled not with talk, but with local news, continuing a cost-effective expansion of news that has been happening for several years in many cities. But ratings declines, in many cases, have been precipitous there, too.

In Chicago, where Ms. Winfrey’s show was produced, the station that carried it at 9 a.m., the ABC affiliate WLS, put on a local talk show called “Windy City Live” in its place. It had an average of 134,000 viewers last month, down from 267,000 in Ms. Winfrey’s final month in 2011.