Ellen’s show lost a million viewers and its future is in jeopardy

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Last Summer, Ellen DeGeneres’ tightly controlled bubble popped when allegations of a toxic work environment went wide. Her less-than-pleasant work personality been an open secret in Hollywood for years, but the story blew up in a Buzzfeed expose. For months we didn’t know if her show would be canceled or if Ellen would be replaced. In the end, Ellen used her first in studio show since her COVID hiatus to apologize for what she claimed she had just learned. The apology was met with a mixed response. After three key firings, the matter was seemingly swept under the rug and forgotten. Or was it? Because according to Ellen’s Neilson ratings, Ellen lost over a million viewers. That is such a drop it calls the future of her show into question.

Viewers tuned in for the apology: This year’s season opener had the highest ratings for an “Ellen” premiere in four years. And then they tuned out. “Ellen” has lost more than a million viewers since September, according to the research firm Nielsen, averaging 1.5 million viewers over the last six months, down from 2.6 million in the same period last year.

The show’s loss of more than a million viewers translates to a 43 percent decline, representing a steeper drop than any of its competitors. This TV season, “Ellen,” the winner of dozens of Emmys since its start in 2003, is no longer in the same league as traditional rivals like “Dr. Phil” (2.5 million) and “Live: With Kelly and Ryan” (2.7 million). Now it finds itself uncomfortably close to shows hosted by Maury Povich (1.4 million), Kelly Clarkson (1.3 million), Rachael Ray (1.2 million), Tamron Hall (1.1 million) and Jerry Springer’s former security guard Steve Wilkos (1.1 million).

The loss of viewers includes a 38 percent decline in her core audience, adult women under 54, according to Nielsen. And it appears to have put a dent in the show’s ad revenue.
From September to January of the 2019-20 season, “Ellen” brought in $131 million from advertisers, according to the research firm Kantar. That has fallen to $105 million for the same period in 2020-21, a drop of about 20 percent.

Ms. DeGeneres, 63, has publicly mused on the possibility of leaving the show in recent years, and the spotlight on her workplace troubles has added to the questions about her future. Her talk-show contract runs through next year.

Warner Bros., the division of AT&T’s WarnerMedia that produces “Ellen,” confirmed that the show would return for a 19th season in September, after her usual summer hiatus. A spokeswoman for Ms. DeGeneres declined to comment when asked if the 2021-22 television season would be her last.

“‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ remains one of the top three highest-rated syndicated talk shows this season,” David McGuire, an executive vice president of programming at Telepictures, a Warner Bros. subsidiary, said in a statement. He suggested other reasons for the decline, like changing viewing habits during the pandemic.

“While broadcast is down across the board and Covid has been challenging for production, we are looking forward to bringing back our live audiences and a 19th season filled with all of the hilarious and heartwarming moments that have made ‘Ellen’ one of the longest running and most successful talk shows in history,” he added.

[From The New York Times]

The article points out that even if the show drops, Ellen is so far in bed with WarnerMedia, she has little to worry about from a business perspective. She has several shows in the works with them like that new Kristen Bell game show she’s producing. In addition, she’s got a separate deal with Discovery. Most of us felt Ellen would handle the situation exactly like she did, with a semi-culpable apology, some public firings and that’s it. So I’m glad the show is getting hit where it hurts. Ellen’s handling of this mess has shown that she wants the controversy to go away, not that she wants to improve. Plus, her show is stale anyway. As Kaiser’s been saying for a while, Ellen seems over it.

The last part of the article addresses Ellen’s attempt to cling on to her reputation:

As Ms. DeGeneres fights through a loss in popularity, she has turned to celebrity friends to help her make the case that there is not much difference between the on-camera Ellen and the real Ellen. When Michelle Obama was a virtual guest last week, she spoke warmly about the time she went to Ms. DeGeneres’s house and they played a piano duet together. A video clip of the pair at the piano was shown.

Another recent guest, Jennifer Garner, also appearing remotely, raced to her hotel room balcony at the host’s request to tell passers-by how much she adored Ms. DeGeneres. “I love her!” Ms. Garner shouted. “She’s kind! She’s a humanitarian! She loves animals!”

This reminds me of her high school reunion show, which was when I started to change my opinion of Ellen. She couldn’t attend her reunion in Texas, so she paid to have everyone come to her studio. It was so uncomfortable. When she greeted them, she was clearly uncomfortable as they approached her, which they had obviously been coached to do. She even pushed a few back. She spent the rest of show asking her classmates to talk about her. Every time they tried to veer from the subject of her, she’d bring them back. And it wasn’t in a talk show way, either. It felt like the conversation she would’ve had had if she’d gone to the reunion in person. I honestly think all those celebrities that issued those terrible “Ellen is great” statements when things were going down this summer were doing so because she asked them to.

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38 Responses to “Ellen’s show lost a million viewers and its future is in jeopardy”

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  1. Darla says:

    Jerry Springer’s former security guard, I’m dying.

    It’s got to be a tough position when someone you know through work, or is basically a “work friend” asks you to tell everyone they’re not an ahole. People don’t like to feel uncomfortable. I wonder who refused, and how?

    • SarahCS says:

      I loved that dig! I have no idea, maybe he’s an outstanding host but reading it cold it sounds SO shady and I am here for that.

      • MerlinsMom1018 says:

        @SarahCS @Darla:
        I saw Springer’s security guard show once. I was waiting to have my oil changed and it was on. I tuned it out after about 30 seconds.
        Once was entirely one time too many even if it was only 30 seconds
        (disclaimer. I don’t know about the other shows, I never watch daytime t.v.)

      • whatWHAT? says:

        he’s not. I also watched his show once and he’s just like…a dude-bro/meathead who has terrible people on his show so he can berate and shame them. it’s like a slightly less trainwreck-of-a-show than Jerry Springer’s.

  2. Lauren says:

    Everything about her seems so forced. I-m sorry for the people bound to lose their jobs if they pull the plug on her show, but gods just get her off air.

    • Anony83 says:

      I used to enjoy her show back in the day but she hasn’t had the same energy for *years* – probably since she started having back problems. They have a real opportunity to use that slot to bring on someone younger and more dynamic. And though I love her as an actor, I really, really hope they don’t choose Kristen Bell (or, ugh, Dax).

      I feel like Twitch would be a good co-host but he’d need a second host to work with. We’ll see I guess, but I’d think WB would be pretty dumb if they didn’t use the final year of the contract to transition her off the air and replace her with someone much more in touch with reality.

  3. Merricat says:

    The “she was nice to me “ defense.

    • spikey says:

      You only need to see how much she enjoys hurling people into water or whatever on her games show to know she is mean. It’s not nice to scare & frighten people for enjoyment. Ellen is a bully.

    • MeninaArmadeira says:

      Of course! I don’t need to know that she is nice to famous, most powerful people than her (Michelle Obama), I need to listen that she is nice to the nobody, the person from next door. This a stupid move to clean her image.

  4. Lady Luna says:

    Celebrities will talk say nice things about her because she’s nice to them. So I can’t believe what they’re saying because they don’t work for her and they don’t know what she’s like. I believe the employees who used to work for her. Or work for her.

    • Lily P says:

      Exactly engagement between peers is very different between engagement with (perceived) subordinates.

      Ellen sucks and so too do her celebrity clique and apologists.

    • Lucy2 says:

      Exactly- i’m sure she’s very nice to her celebrity friends, and they don’t see the day-to-day problems at the show.
      With it all out in the open now, I wonder if any of them have reassessed the friendship, or if she managed to convince them it wasn’t true.

      Also, i’m not going to weep for a show that went from $113 mil to $105 mil for a few months, especially during a pandemic. It’s still clearly a big moneymaker, even if the ratings are dipping.

    • It might also be interesting to see if she shares agents or managers or is doing a deal with any of these people. There is SO MUCH behind the scenes quid pro quo in Hollywood we don’t see, it’s ridiculous. It’s a BUSINESS, and A LOT of these “relationships” are not real and they may barely know each other.

  5. Xantha says:

    Speaking of Ellen I noticed that Dakota Johnson hasn’t been back on Ellen since she called her out for lying about not receiving a birthday invite. I remember people trying to claim that she and Ellen were joking but I never got that vibe. And Dakota has done promo for her movies since then so that’s not an excuse.

  6. Twin falls says:

    That 2.5 million people are watching Dr Phil… 🤮

    • MissMarierose says:

      yeah, i’d rather have Ellen than “Dr” Phil. Ellen may be mean to her staff, but at least she’s not actively harming her audience with every show.

    • lucy2 says:

      That got me too. He and Dr. Oz are both detrimental to our society.

      • Betsy says:

        This is why I don’t like Oprah very much. She brought both of those charlatans to prominence.

  7. Mireille says:

    As someone who has experienced so many toxic work environments and bosses, I am glad that with the exposure of such on the Ellen show that there will be more talk of this. Bullying, intimidation, and threats of firing people should they bruise the boss’s ego seem to be more commonplace in the work setting. Also, another toxic host: James Corden. I’ve heard snippets about him here and there but he’s also very much like Ellen, a real POS.

  8. Mrs. Peel says:

    Haven’t watched since she ditched her dance routines, not missing out.

  9. Tiffany says:

    I think the Dakota Johnson interview was the start of the decline. Dakota calling her out like that said a lot because if people have watched the show in the past, she did crap like that and never got any pushback. That was when other guest who were on the show starting speaking up about how Ellen really is and then the stories about the toxic work environment starting coming out.

    And something else stood out as well. Several musical acts stopped returning. Her show was always a stop for the daytime audience. It must have been bad if you don’t want that kind of exposure.

  10. Betsy says:

    Kate McKinnon’s impersonation of Ellen is all the Ellen Degeneres I need.

    • lobstah says:

      I remember how visibly pissed Ellen used to get seeing Kate’s impression – that’s when I realized, Ellen’s not as nice as she pretends to be. But Kate can replace her and I don’t think anyone would mind!

    • Normades says:

      When Kate went on her show as Ellen, Ellen was not amused. There was nothing mean spirited or negative about the impersonation but Ellen just couldn’t laugh at herself.

  11. Summergirl says:

    I can’t get past how dead her eyes are.

  12. Leah says:

    That’s what happens when you are a mean boss and people find out that your niceness is just an act. Never cared for her or her humor tbh, she has a hard and cold exterior that I could always see through her jokes. Not relatable.

    She should just retire now and go away. It’s not like she needs the money.

  13. Leskat says:

    I haven’t ever, ever been a fan of her show. She just always seemed so snarky and mean and self- serving. The scaring people segments were painfully cringy to me; I hate seeing people uncomfortable and scared. It wasn’t a prank, it was mean, I wasn’t surprised when all the initial allegations of a toxic work environment came out. She deserved to lose her show and have everyone who worked on it paid for trauma.

  14. TaraBest says:

    I haven’t watched her show regularly for a few years now, but I did still follow her on instagram and watch interesting clips on youtube. When quarantine started last year and she began complaining about how hard it was, from her beautiful house with gorgeous outdoor space and amazing SoCal weather, I stopped following her or watching any clips from her show. I know quarantine has been hard on everyone, it was just so distasteful the way she was complaining publicly when most of us couldn’t even afford to vacation at a house like hers! (For contrast, January Jones was clearly losing it, as we all were, but kept her public posts entertaining while she hung out in her gorgeous house and pool).

    • Betsy says:

      I remember that she was complaining, though I didn’t see hers (or anyone else’s, ftr), and it was just in such bad taste. You’re right – most of us were holed up in much smaller, less attractive, less well appointed spaces and with a lot worse weather for most of it. I didn’t complain because I have a house and a yard and it seems petty to moan when I had so much more than many.

      She does not seem like a good person, and I don’t understand what made her so hard.

      • TaraBest says:

        Yes, “bad taste” is a great way to put it. When your home is literally appointed like a vacation rental that would cost $30k+ a week to rent, please don’t complain about how hard it is to hang out there.

      • Emma33 says:

        Betsy – I read your comment as “much smaller, less attractive and less well appointed spouses” and now I can’t stop laughing.

  15. Renee says:

    Who is still watching? The veil has been removed and people should know what she really stands for. She is nice to celebrities and rich people, not her employees. She is so phony.

  16. Dazed and Confused says:

    Just wanted to say that Rachael Ray’s show has been truly fantastic during the pandemic. I’d rather watch her than Ellen every day of the week.

  17. Ann says:

    She has had nothing but bad moments for years now. I don’t remember the last time I read anything positive about Ellen. Maybe when Finding Dory came out? That was in 2016, so 5 years of press that has steadily declined. It’s long past due to pull the plug and now there are hard numbers to back it all up.

  18. K says:

    She sucks. I feel for tWitch and the crew of that show. Also her sadistic streak with those weird games freaks me out. Bye Ellen.

  19. Blueskies says:

    I’m surprised Michelle Obama stills associates with her. A few years ago I remember watching a shopping trip to a drugstore they recorded and Ellen was acting like an obnoxious toddler throughout the bit, Michelle was exuding a calm exasperation. I was full on cringing, it was unbearable and not funny to me. Michelle was promoting a charity or something, there was just this gross indulgence of Ellen that we were expected to love and laugh over.

    I imagine it will be wait and see with this next season and they’ll decide accordingly.

  20. MsGnomer says:

    I recall in 1998 when she came out on her sitcom. At the same time, she made a big deal about not being a spokesperson or icon for the queer community. I was crushed. All ambition, no heart. Never watched her talk show.

    • Sansa says:

      @Msgnomer, “no heart” is right! as much of a cultural impact her coming out did have, she is no icon for those of us who ID as LGBTQ. instead she’s ended up as the equivalent of the token gay friend for otherwise conservative white women of a certain age. she’s enabled and excused homophobes and war criminals. let the ellen show die, society has advanced past the need for it