Baumhower: Replacing OprahWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | email@example.com
After 25 years, “The Oprah Winfrey Show” called it a wrap on May 25. It was a glorious 3-show farewell celebration fit for a Queen, or as we call her… Oprah. The remarkable farewell shows featured the biggest names alive from Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Will Smith and even highlighted the first public appearance of Maria Shriver following her very scandalous split from husband Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Finals Shows were taped in front of a massive audience of 13,000 screaming fans at the United Center, and I believe Oprah herself heard the screams of joy and sadness from two different newsrooms in Toledo.
“The Oprah Winfrey Show” has long been the perfect lead-in for WTOL Channel 11’s newscast and the longstanding nemesis of WTVG 13 ABC.
There is no better ratings race in Toledo than WTVG and WTOL. Both feature iconic anchors. WTOL has Jerry Anderson and Chrys Peterson, WTVG has Lee Conklin and Diane Larson. Both have outstanding weather personalities, and although WTVG has more with Stan Stachak and ‘Blizzard’ Bill Spencer, do not discount the lai back delivery of Robert Shiels. The sports edge would go to longtime anchor Dan Cummins, whose involvement in the community makes him an irreplaceable asset to the station. WTVG took a big loss with Rob Powers’ exit to NYC’s WABC. Dave Holmes is trying but those are some huge shoes.
So when Oprah announced that May 25 was her last day, the collective moans and screams could be heard across Toledo. TV show’s ratings are only as good as the show that is one before you, WTOL had Oprah and WTVG has “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” Oprah’s ratings had been dwindling, but bounced back for her final season. Oprah beat Ellen in Toledo by a full share this last year.
The 4 o’clock hour is the most crucial hour of programming for local TV stations. This time slot allows the stations to promote what is coming up and why Toledoans should stay tuned to watch their 5 O’Clock news. This is called a “lead-in”.
The back and forth ratings battle between WTOL and WTVG ended in a tie with a 6 share in July for the 5 o’clock news hour… A TIE!!! WTVG and WTOL would like to claim victories in certain demographics but in the hopes of keeping this piece simple, I will not even attempt to break those down. The simple explanation is that the same number of households in Toledo watched WTVG and WTOL.
The Million Dollar Question in Toledo television is … how do you replace one of the most beloved personalities in TV history? The bigger markets decided to start their newscasts an hour earlier in hopes of competing, but Fox 36 proved that is an incredible task to undertake. Channel 11 went a different direction and this is where this story gets interesting. WTOL was recently purchased by Raycom Media, the former owners of WNBC 24. Raycom’s solution in replacing Oprah is America Now, a TV Show that Raycom owns. In case the last sentence confused you as it did myself, let me repeat it… Raycom replaced Oprah with a show… that Raycom produces…. not good!
“America Now” is hosted by Leeza Gibbons (Entertainment Tonight) and Bill Rancic of NBC’s Apprentice but who may be better known as the husband of Giuliana Rancic from E. The show’s format features news and infomercial like segments. America Now is beyond the worst case scenario for the fine newspeople at WTOL, and in my opinion the worst of the 4 shows that air on local stations.
The November Sweeps will be crucial as it will be the first time since Oprah’s exit and America Now’s premiere that Toledo’s TV stations will see the ripple effect of the Queen’s exit. My fear is the loss of Oprah’s lead-in will greatly lower WTOL’s ratings which will lead to budget cuts, firings etc.
Toledo‘s 5 O’Clock ratings war has given us two exceptional newscasts to choose from as viewers. The competitive nature of the programs drive the other to be better and give Toledoans a choice. Raycom’s purchase of WTOL and cheap solution of replacing Oprah with America Now will have long lasting effects, not just for Channel 11 but 13 as well. If WTVG begins to dominate, WTOL will reduce staff and cost. The scarier thought is what WTVG will do… will they be satisfied with winning or will they want to win and save money? A dollar saved is a dollar earned, but will Toledoan’s pay the price?
My prediction and hope is WTOL will have a 4 O’Clock newscast starting in January of 2012. Let’s hope that Oprah’s exit does not mark the death of local TV news.
Jeremy Baumhower is a self-proclaimed media expert who writes and produces for morning radio shows across the country. Please follow him on twitter @jeremytheproduc.
Tags: 13abc, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Spencer, Chrys Peterson, Dan Cummings, Dave Holmes, Diane Larson, Ellen DeGeneres, Jeremy Baumhower, Jerry Anderson, Katie Holmes, Lee Conklin, Maria Shriver, Media Watch, Oprah Winfrey, Rob Powers, Stan Stachak, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, WTOL