Ellen DeGeneres has a ratings problem. In less than a year, she has reportedly lost more than forty percent of her audience, and with only one more season left on her contract, the future of The Ellen DeGeneres Show feels very uncertain. It’s an unfamiliar position for the longtime talk show host, and it’s one that seems to have a cause and effect relationship with all of the behind the scenes problems on the set of her show.
After years of muted whispers about there maybe being some issues behind the scenes on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, the problems exploded to the forefront last summer. Allegations of bullying, sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct went public, leading to multiple employees in positions of power getting fired. DeGeneres herself apologized to the staff and when the show returned, she talked about what happened behind the scenes and took responsibility. According to The New York Times, viewers showed up in big numbers to watch her address what happened, leading to the biggest premiere in four years, but in the time since, the show has reportedly bled off more than forty percent of its viewers.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show, once the most popular syndicated talk show on television, recently found itself in a four way tie for third place, doing a little more than half the audience of clear frontrunners Dr. Phil and Live With Kelly and Ryan. It wasn’t some outlier in performance either. These are basically what the picture looks like, and the decline in performance presents a potential problem for a show that reportedly pays its title star quite well and allegedly cut salaries last year.
As much as anything else, television is about momentum. Positive buzz helps drive tune-in as viewers want to be a part of the conversation. That can work well when a show is hot but it can also go the other way when people start turning on it. Ellen DeGeneres knows that as well as anyone given her long and successful career in Hollywood. She’ll be back to host the show next season in the final year of her contract, but unless this ratings slide improves, everyone involved is going to need to have some hard conversations about whether to continue, which has been a point of conversation before.
Fortunately for Ellen DeGeneres herself, she has a lot of options. She currently has overall deals with HBO Max and Discovery to produce content, and while her show doesn’t touch the audience it once did, it’s still quite popular compared to a majority of things on television. She will definitely have the pull to launch whatever she wants next, and while the public has definitely pushed back after all of her behind the scenes issues, many have stuck with her and it’s reasonable to think some former viewers may return for the right project and at least give it a chance.