When Ellen DeGeneres kicked off her daytime talk show's 18th season in September, that episode drew in the highest ratings for one of her season openers in four years. Since then, however, there's been a "startling setback," per the New York Times, which reports on a steep ratings slide for the 63-year-old comedian. That premiere saw DeGeneres apologize to viewers following allegations of a "toxic work environment" on her show, but after it aired, the at-home audience "tuned out," the Times notes. The program's Nielsen ratings have shown an average of 1.5 million viewers over the past six months, a far cry from the 2.6 million average DeGeneres saw in the same period the previous season. For context, Dr. Phil has brought in an average 2.5 million viewers—DeGeneres' ratings are more on par with those attached to shows by Maury Povich, newcomer Kelly Clarkson, and Steve Wilkos, who used to be Jerry Springer's security guard.
That 43% drop in viewership—which includes a 38% decline among DeGeneres' core audience, adult women under 54—has been accompanied by a 20% drop in ad revenue. DeGeneres' prime-time show on NBC, Ellen's Game of Games, has also seen 32% of its viewers disappear this season. Warner Bros., which produces both shows, is defending its star. "The Ellen DeGeneres Show remains one of the top three highest-rated syndicated talk shows this season," David McGuire, a programming exec for Warner Bros. subsidiary Telepictures, says in a statement, suggesting the pandemic may be partially to blame for the show's troubles. The Independent also notes DeGeneres' program won the daytime talk show category at November's People's Choice Awards, which fans decide. At any rate, DeGeneres may not have yet seen these numbers: Per People, wife Portia de Rossi had emergency surgery Friday for appendicitis, with a rep noting she's now "doing well" at home. (Read more Ellen DeGeneres stories.)