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When a show has been on the air for over a decade, it will normally see a decline in ratings from its peak period. But don’t tell that to Ellen DeGeneres, whose morning talk show recently earned some of the highest ratings of its entire run, thanks to a batch of well-timed interviews and a brief location change.
Last week saw the first four episodes of Ellen’s Season 13 debut, and the preliminary Nielsen estimates show that the week tied last year’s premiere week as the most watched opening week in the show’s history, and it got a 2.9 household rating. What’s more, its 1.6 rating for women viewers is the second best for the show, just behind the 1.8 rating that the 2012 debut week earned. Even though linear television as a whole is experiencing a slight decline in overall viewing numbers, thanks to a multitude of streaming options, morning talk shows don’t always play by the same rules, bringing in a different demographic than primetime series. Plus, anticipation is never higher than when a show kicks back into high gear, which Ellen definitely did.
So what got people watching? Well, the first episode of Season 13 featured an interview with former Olympian and current headline-swamping reality star Caitlyn Jenner for her first talk show appearance since making her well-documented transition. Wednesday’s show featured activist Malala Yousafzai, who is the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize at only 18 years old, along with Ice Cube and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. The show then crossed the country for a pair of shows centered in New York’s Rockefeller Center. The first of which featured an interview with Democratic presidential hopeful Hilary Clinton, who tried to get hip by showing off her Whip and Nae Nae skills, and then Friday’s show was with The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, which was as silly as could be expected.
The show’s cross-country episodes managed to fare well across a lot of the U.S., where many cities saw large bumps in viewership, especially with women. (On the whole, the show’s time period saw a 45% increase in women over the same one last year, with a 32% growth in households.) New York brought in a 2.1 rating among women viewers, which is a 31% increase year-over-year, according to Variety. And as far as time slot improvements went, Dallas viewers were up 138%, Boston was up 93%, and Atlanta was up 88%.
Assuming Ellen keeps bringing in major stars to advertise movies and get pranks played on them, there will be an audience there to watch it all go down. This week, viewers can expect to see Justin Bieber, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson, comedian Tig Notaro and actress Dakota Johnson.