Kelly Clarkson’s syndicated daytime talk show is a ratings winner
Kelly Clarkson has built her career blending country, pop, R&B and rock influences into a soulful sound all her own. Turns out the singer-songwriter has a touch of Dinah Shore in her, too.
Clarkson has delivered an impressive performance so far with her stint in the daytime talk show arena as host of “The Kelly Clarkson Show.” Since its September debut, the hour-long variety show, distributed by NBCUniversal, has proven to be a ratings contender, ranking 4th among all syndicated daytime speakers, ahead of veterans such as “Maury”, “Rachael Ray” and “The Wendy Williams Show.
The “American Idol” alum’s strong start adds more fuel to the renewed fire in the first-run syndication business. After a few years of fallow, distributors are slowly but surely taking bigger swings with bold names in a bid to seed a new generation of personalities. Drew Barrymore and Nick Cannon are among the notables slated to transition to the daytime yaks pack in the fall of 2020.
“We’re glad ‘Kelly Clarkson’ is working. It shows that if you play a significant role on a talk show with the right talent, it can stick,” says Ira Bernstein, Co-Chair of Debmar-Mercury’s Syndication Unit. Lionsgate, which is the distributor of ‘Nick Cannon’, “If we can keep daytime TV relevant and engaging for viewers with more new shows, everyone wins.”
Local TV stations used to have a license to print money during the day. Cable competition was minimal. Major studios targeted the day-to-day portion with first-run syndication or programs sold to station owners on a market-by-market basis rather than to a national network. First-run syndication in the heyday of the 80s and 90s delivered massive hits a la “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” and “Judge Judy.”
But the track record for first-run programming over the past decade has been dismal. “Kelly Clarkson” is the first newcomer to gain real momentum since Steve Harvey launched his talk show in 2012. NBCUniversal has already renewed the series for a second season.
Tonally, Clarkson’s show is a throwback to the celebrity-driven chat parties of the 1960s and 1970s. Think Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Shore bantering with guests on the couch, interacting with the studio audience, doing a song or skit or two and delivering enjoyable human interest segments.
Tracie Wilson, executive vice president of creative affairs for NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, says Clarkson has what it takes for the day. NBCU had high hopes after seeing her work last year as a coach on NBC’s “The Voice.” But the day requires a deeper level of connection with viewers in order to make the show a daily habit.
“Kelly is the exact same person off camera as she is on camera,” Wilson says. “She puts her heart and soul into the show, and it shows in the viewer.”
The Texas-born singer-songwriter is candid about his frequent use of “y’all.” It’s no surprise to NBCU that the show scores points in core markets like Nashville, Phoenix, and Portland, Oregon. “Kelly Clarkson” has averaged about 1.8 million viewers for the season so far (through Nov. 8). This places her behind only “Dr. Phil” (3.2 million viewers), “Live With Kelly and Ryan” (2.7 million) and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” (2.5 million) among speakers of the daytime.
“Kelly Clarkson” generated immediate buzz for its opening segment, dubbed “Kellyoke,” in which Clarkson gives a full-
raucous rendition of a song by another artist. The list ranges from Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” to Lizzo’s “Juice” and Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.” The segment has become a reliable promotional engine for the show on social media and broadcast platforms. The “Kellyoke” segments have garnered more than 13 million views on the show’s YouTube channel to date, according to NBC.
CBS Television Studios hopes Barrymore will give Clarkson some competition on the celebrity front with a show focused on entertainment and lifestyle. Cannon is following a similar path to Clarkson’s by planting his flag during the day after gaining prime-time TV stature as the host of Fox’s reality show “The Masked Singer” and summertime staple. from NBC’s “America’s Got Talent”.
“Nick Cannon” has been picked for a fall 2020 launch by Fox Television Stations, which will air the show on Fox affiliates in nine of the top 10 markets. This will help boost promotion of the daytime show in connection with “Masked Singer,” just as NBCUniversal is piloting cross-promotion of Clarkson’s show with “The Voice” and other NBCU assets.
Cannon was guest host for Debmar-Mercury’s “Wendy Williams” earlier this year, which sealed the company’s conviction to perform with him during the day. Cannon’s show will air in tandem with “Wendy Williams” in many markets, giving her a compatible introduction.
Launching a Monday-Friday syndicated talk show nationally is a minimum of a $30 million proposition. Debmar-Mercury co-chairman Mort Marcus said Cannon was worth the risk, despite the high casualty rate during the day.
“We wouldn’t launch this unless we felt there was a very, very good chance it would be profitable,” Marcus says. “Yeah, it’s a tighter market for syndication, but it’s healthier for the market when there’s a bunch of new shows and people are trying new things.”