The sky is falling! Oprah’s ratings are down 7% last season, and as is the case with all things, this must have something to do with Barack Obama, somehow. In an article about the ratings decline, the AP quotes an author who says that Oprah’s endorsement of Obama has hurt her in the heartland. David Carr follows suit on Media Decoder: he says that Oprah’s decline is “understandable against a backdrop of atomizing audiences,” but could be because she alienated part of her base by going political.
It’s a theory, but does it pass the sniff test?
Too often, when the AP writes about the stock market, they feel the annoying need to make every little blip and bloop “about” something that happened that day — when in fact, many are near-random fluctuations, or reflective of broader trends. It’s the same with TV ratings.
According to TVbytheNumbers, who should know about this sort of thing, “for a while, we were getting multiple requests a week to look at that data, and whenever we looked at it, we couldn’t come up with anything to actually support the case. At least unless we could somehow attribute decreases with Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune to Oprah’s endorsement of Obama too.” You have to get to the fifth paragraph of the AP article to see that Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, and Martha Stewart all took double-digit tumbles last season.
A comparison: this Broadcasting & Cable article from February, right after the nomination, claims that Oprah’s support of Obama helped her ratings — even though oh yeah, lots of other top talk show hosts were experiencing similar gains at the time. Maybe… both of these Oprah fluctuations have something to do with talk shows in general?
The 9/12 crowd would love to take credit for the fall of a major TV icon that they don’t like and make puppeteering posters about (above). Maybe, in time, they’ll be able to make that claim. But until there’s hard proof that this is at all political and not, you know, about young people not watching her show because it’s really boring, let’s stick to the important things. Like making parody Tumblrs about Kanye’s VMA outburst.