‘Nate Berkus’ A Low Point in Oprah’s Talk Empire?

by | October 23, 2010 at 9:07 AM | TV News

If you thought everything Oprah Winfrey touches (or just happens to mention briefly on her show) turns to gold, then think again: For the first time, an Oprah-anointed daytime talk show is struggling in the ratings.

It’s ‘The Nate Berkus Show,’ the fourth show to be launched featuring a personality first nurtured on ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show.’  But unlike the other ones – ‘Dr. Phil,’ ‘Rachael Ray’ and ‘Dr. Oz’ – the ‘Berkus’ show has declined in the ratings every week since its debut in mid-September.

‘Berkus’ is daytime television’s first attempt to build a talk show around the subject of home design and renovation.  The thinking seems to have been inspired by Rachael Ray, who grew a successful, general-interest daytime talk show from essentially one narrow subject – cooking.  But Ray honed her skills hosting cooking shows on the Food Network.  Berkus is an interior designer who doesn’t have a background in hosting.

And now, he’s struggling in the ratings as viewers struggle to understand his show.  ”One problem might be Berkus’ lack of  focus,” said MediaLife, an influential Web site that covers all things media.  The show is a lot more vague than any of Winfrey’s previous shows, which all have clearly branded personalities and themes.

Watch Nate Talk About ‘Oprah’s Big Give:’

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“Berkus is likable, but he pings from decorating to mommy bloggers to saving money to auction tips with the occasional celebrity appearance, making it difficult to discern the show’s true identity,” MediaLife said.

As a result, his ratings have inched downward each week.  In the most recent syndication ratings report, his show had a 0.9, down from a 1.0 a week earlier.

While that might not seem like much, in the cutthroat syndication world, shows are judged on whether they can maintain their audiences from the week before or, in the best of cases, build on them.

By contrast, one of Oprah’s other spin-offs, ‘Dr. Oz,’ had a respectable 2.3 rating in the latest ratings report.  More important, the rating for ‘Dr. Oz’ was even with the week before.

So is ‘Nate Berkus’ moving dangerously close to cancellation?  Not necessarily.  Generally speaking, syndicated shows don’t get canceled as quickly as under-performing prime-time shows on the big networks.  Decisions on whether struggling syndicated shows live or die are usually made after November, the crucial sweeps month.  If his audience doesn’t grow in the four-week sweeps, Berkus could be toast.

Has anyone out there sampled the ‘Berkus’ show?  If so, what do you think of it?