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By The Numbers

Daytime TV in flux: Too much talk, not enough viewers?

Gigi Douban Jul 11, 2013

UPDATE: Former Playboy model and MTV personality Jenny McCarthy will be joining “The View” as a new co-host, Barbara Walters announced.

Just because people are watching TV during the day doesn’t mean they’re tuning in to daytime TV. And that’s part of the reason daytime television is in such flux.

Take Brian Householder, director of undergraduate studies in communications at Rutgers University, for example. He’s got the day off and he’s at home. He turns on the tube, but instead of watching “The View,” he’s watching primetime stuff he DVR’d two nights ago. “Why am I going to watch daytime TV when I can watch on my DVR ‘Deadliest Catch’ from two nights ago, or Bravo’s re-airing of some show from primetime?”

Householder says the mentality of what it means to be daytime TV is changing. “The idea of time is a fluid concept,” he says.

The programming, too, has been fluid. Or in some cases, more like a revolving door. Meredith Vieira returns to daytime television this fall to host a syndicated talk show. The future of Katie Couric’s latest show “Katie” is uncertain. Anderson Cooper’s daytime talk show “Anderson Cooper Live” lasted two seasons before it died last fall.

Part of that is because daytime viewers want fresh content, and the landscape has become highly competitive. And even though advertisers in 2012 spent almost 40 percent of their TV dollars in primetime, according to a recent Nielsen report, some say the daytime set is not to be ignored.

“The daytime folks, they have spending power in the market,” says Meghan Beno, director of consumer behavior at Discovery Communications. Her comments came in a video last month produced by Nielsen titled “Wake Up! There’s Money in Daytime TV.”

For one thing, she says, there are 35 programming hours in daytime, compared to 15 in primetime. And while Beno says the average dollar spent by daytime viewers per transaction on retail is comparable to primetime (about $73), viewership is declining.

So is the patience of the networks.

“Daytime programming for nearly 30 years showed almost zero change,” Householder says. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” aired from 1986 to 2011. “The View” is in its 16th season, though there’s been pretty high talent turnover there. Sometimes that’s strategic, whether it’s a new face on a show or a new show altogether. “I think it’s trying to hunt for and restimulate audience interest. They’re trying to rub the lantern and have the genie kind of pop out, and if ratings are sagging, how do we get a new spike or pop in the ratings?”

Householder says sometimes that turnover can help maximize profits for the networks. “When you look at people who have been on a show for a long time who may be earning significant amounts of money, when you start over, you might be able to do it cheaper,” he says.

Talk shows generally are cheaper to produce, Householder says, but people with high credibility among daytime viewers like Meredith Vieira fetch top dollar. “That’s not going to be a cheap show to do,” he says of her new show. So if it’s not drawing viewers and ad dollars, he says, it might not be long at all before they pull the plug.

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