Once again, the lack of action makes things worse.
For years now Ellen Degeneres has enjoyed the spotlight in daytime television as the heir to Oprah’s afternoon fame. Following the media Titan’s retirement from the format Degeneres has slid into the spot and the spotlight held for decades by Oprah. She has even appropriated the former queen’s practice of dedicating shows to giving away massive prizes to audience members. But then things soured.
Degeneres has spent years cultivating the image of a peace-loving happy-go-lucky beacon of positivity, but then it turned out that behind the scenes things were far darker. Stories began to emerge of dysfunction in the production staff that was not just in sharp contrast to the show’s image but also significantly widespread. A toxic workplace was becoming revealed, where staffers were fired over taking sick time or bereavement, and close to 50 employees reported a hostile work environment, and intimidation tactics routinely were handed out.
Following some of these revelations came a new wave of charges, where sexual harassment was alleged against some of the upper members of the production management. Again, it was not a case of a few lone voices, but dozens came forward to report on the aggressions experienced on the show. It all became too much for the hostess to ignore on camera and last fall she opened her 18th broadcast season by addressing the mounting concerns. The admission had conflicting returns.
By coming clean Degeneres acknowledged the problems, and it led to the removal of some of the key staff who were behind the activities. But it also meant she no longer had cover with her shiny image. With the removal of the benefit of the doubt, Ellen’s opening monologue became an admission the show was largely a facade of glee and joy, one covering up an almost sinister environment. The result is that the show has suffered a massive hit in the balance.
Since that debut in mid-September, the show has experienced a loss of audience to the tune of over 1 million viewers. This amounts to a heavy drop of over -40%, more so than all other daytime programs. She has perennially been at, or near the top of the daytime ratings, but this is a significant plunge. Her last year saw Ellen at 2.6 million viewers, challenging Live With Kelly and Ryan (2.7 million) and Dr. Phil (2.5 million).
This is a significant hit, and it leads to trouble in a number of areas. As far as a loss in ad revenue this represents over a $25 million loss in business. The hit has also been experienced in the host’s primetime game show, Ellen’s Game Of Games, which saw a loss of nearly one-third of its audience. Now factor in these losses were accrued during a pandemic when a larger audience has been sequestered at home, and the problem is seen as even worse.
This reveals there is the usual distaste seen when it is exposed that an internal scandal was squelched, to some degree. For some reason, many companies, and other operations, face a sex scandal and have the reaction to attempt to manage the fallout, rather than addressing the problem. It is similar in something we recently saw with the Time’s Up organization having its own sexual harassment issues, which it bizarrely elected to downplay and avoid. Since Ellen herself never faced down the problem it instead grew, becoming an unmanageable issue that once it became revealed was viewed as an overwhelming unacceptable disaster.
I am sure there are lessons to be had from the experience, but this being the entertainment complex it is severely doubtful anyone will be taking the matter as an educational experience.