We all knew that Regis Philbin was a well-liked figure on our televisions, but we didn’t realize he was this well-liked: According to the New York Post, the ratings of the Regis-free episodes of “Live! With Kelly” are off by more than a third since Philbin departed the show in mid-November.
The number of viewers that “Live!” has been attracting steadily dropped for each of the three weeks after Philbin left; Nielsen measured 4.2 million viewers during Thanksgiving week (a short week where Jerry Seinfeld guest hosted), 3.8 million during the week of Dec. 2 and 3.6 million during the week of Dec. 9.
Now, there are a couple of caveats here: Philbin’s last week averaged 6 million viewers, but in October, the show averaged 3.4 million viewers, which means that perhaps the audience is just settling back to its normal levels post-Regis. However, it is a little alarming that the show has gone down every week since he’s left.
As many fans as Kelly Ripa has, we wonder how long patient the audience is going to be with the show’s co-host search, which will likely extend out for a few months. When Regis led a similar search a decade ago, after Kathie Lee Gifford left, the ratings for the show held steady and even grew over time, mainly because Regis was such a draw — he was hosting “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” at the time — and because people were just happy to see Gifford gone. Ripa might not be as big a draw, and the search may try viewers’ patience this time around.
Then again, it’s the holidays, when people might be taking that hour to go shopping or decorate the house. Let’s see what happens in the new year to see if audiences are really checking out now that Reege is gone.
Watch Regis (actually, it’s Jimmy Fallon) “come back” on “SNL”: