Pop­u­lar ‘ Ellen’ isn’t likely to be pulled any­time soon

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Gary Levin

Here’s why the high- rat­ings show can sur­vive al­le­ga­tions of staff mis­treat­ment.

Ever since al­le­ga­tions about mis­treat­ment of staffers by her pro­duc­ers sur­faced last month, ques­tions have swirled about the fu­ture of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” a sta­ple of day­time TV since 2003.

Which heads will roll? Will she quit? Is the show even re­turn­ing this fall? And if she leaves, who might re­place her? ( As # Re­placeEllen trended on Twit­ter Mon­day, fans were not shy about sug­gest­ing po­ten­tial hosts, rang­ing from James Cor­den to Harry Styles to Michelle Obama.)

DeGeneres ex­pressed re­gret at the ac­cu­sa­tions of racism, in­tim­i­da­tion and sex­ual ha­rass­ment lev­eled by un­named for­mer staffers against some of her pro­duc­ers. But her apol­ogy was quickly fol­lowed by finger- point­ing at her for be­ing obliv­i­ous – or, worse, turn­ing a blind eye – to the mis­be­hav­ior, or by crit­ics ( in­clud­ing ac­tors Brad Gar­rett and Lea Thomp­son) who piled on, blam­ing her.

In her state­ment last week, DeGeneres said she ini­tially promised her show “would be a place of hap­pi­ness – no one would ever raise their voice, and ev­ery­one would be treated with re­spect. Ob­vi­ously, some­thing changed, and I am dis­ap­pointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry.” She vowed staff changes, and at least one of three ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers, Ed Glavin, is ex­pected to leave, The Hol­ly­wood Re­porter said.

Her apol­ogy was quickly fol­lowed by tabloid spec­u­la­tion that she’d walk away from her show – and her fat pay­check, es­ti­mated at more than $ 50 mil­lion a year – even though she has two years left on a con­tract ex­ten­sion she signed in May 2019.

Warner Bros., which pro­duces and dis­trib­utes the show to lo­cal sta­tions around the coun­try, be­trayed no plans to call it quits. “No­body is going off the air,” tweeted ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Andy Lass­ner on Thurs­day.

“‘ The Ellen DeGeneres Show’ will re­turn on Sept. 9,” the stu­dio’s se­nior VP Blake Bryant added Mon­day, de­clin­ing fur­ther com­ment.

End­ing the show would not be so easy. With an av­er­age of 2.4 mil­lion view­ers last sea­son, “Ellen” is the No. 3 talk show in syn­di­ca­tion, be­hind “Dr. Phil” and “Live! with Kelly and Ryan.” And un­like “The View,” a net­work series that airs on nearly all of ABC’s sta­tions, mostly at the same time, “Ellen” is syn­di­cated, and airs in a va­ri­ety of time slots and on sta­tions affili­ated with differ­ent net­works across the coun­try. Those sta­tions signed con­tracts and pay sep­a­rate li­cense fees to air the show.

DeGeneres’s A Very Good Pro­duc

tion is also be­hind sev­eral cur­rent Warner Bros. shows, from NBC’s “Ellen’s Game of Games and “Lit­tle Big Shots” to Netflix’s “Green Eggs and Ham,” com­pli­cat­ing a sep­a­ra­tion.

And even if DeGeneres were to bail when her con­tract ex­pires in May 2022, Warner Bros. couldn’t sim­ply plug in a new host. The stu­dio would effec­tively be launch­ing an en­tirely new show, and would have to sell it to those sta­tions all over again.

“This is a big show in syn­di­ca­tion,” says Stacey Schul­man, chief mar­ket­ing officer of Katz Me­dia Group, which ad­vises lo­cal sta­tions on pro­gram­ming. “There aren’t many shows that bring in ( those) rat­ings.” Schul­man also draws a dis­tinc­tion be­tween de­lay­ing the launch of Nick Can­non’s planned talk show after his anti- Semitic re­marks and end­ing an es­tab­lished hit with a 17- year track record.

“It’s not just filling a hole, it’s filling a hole that’s a rat­ings jug­ger­naut,” Schul­man says. So it’s “highly un­likely” sta­tions could re­place it with a com­pa­ra­ble re­place­ment.

Ellen DeGeneres is­sued an emo­tional apol­ogy for al­leged mis­treat­ment of staffers by her pro­duc­ers. But will she step away from her suc­cess­ful syn­di­cated talk show, which has aired since 2003? AN­DREW HARNIK/ AP

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