Warner Bros. TV inks multiyear deal for 'Degeneres Show'

Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution are already winners in daytime TV’s post-Oprah sweepstakes.

WBDTD has cut a rich new deal with NBC Universal that will keep “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” on the 10 NBC O&Os through the 2013-14 season. The deal takes “Ellen” out of the running to replace “The Oprah Winfrey Show” on key ABC O&Os when Winfrey’s show bows out after the 2010-11 season.

Winfrey has long occupied the most optimum timeslots in daytime, mostly in the late afternoon, but Warner Bros. was able to command top-dollar increases from NBC U to retain “Ellen” for its stations in New York, L.A., Chicago and seven other major markets.

Warner Bros. had no shortage of offers for “Ellen” from ABC- and Fox-owned stations, as well as cablers, including Lifetime and Oxygen, who made a big play to nab the show as a cable exclusive. In the end, Warner Bros. decided that securing hefty license fee increases from “Ellen’s” longtime incumbent stations was the smartest play.

“They were the ones that believed in my show from day one,” DeGeneres said in a statement of the NBC O&O renewal.

Once the “Oprah Winfrey” competish goes away, “Ellen” is likely to attract a good portion of Winfrey’s loyal daytime followers — which means she’ll get the benefit of the Oprah halo without having to move to Oprah’s old stations in the top markets, where syndie skeins make the lion’s share of their money.

At present, the 10 NBC stations are believed to pay about $350,000 per week for the show, in addition to giving Warner Bros. several minutes of barter advertising time in each episode. With the new deal, the NBC stations’ bill for “Ellen” is sure to rise significantly over the three seasons.

Industry vets say no daytime show is ever likely to approach “Oprah Winfrey”-level coin. In New York and L.A. alone, the show commands an estimated $300,000 a week — in each market. But clearly, NBC U was prepared to pony up rather than see “Ellen,” a show they’ve nurtured since its 2003 debut, shore up a competitor. And the NBC stations don’t have a whole lot else going for them in daytime, even after years of trying to seed their own Peacock-produced series.

For Warner Bros., “Ellen’s” gains are a notable reversal of the general downtrend in daytime license fees in recent seasons. A number of established syndie shows have taken a hit on license fees in recent renewal pacts, and it was understood that even “Oprah Winfrey” would have faced a big cut had the host decided to continue in syndication past her existing contract, which ends next season.

DeGeneres is uniquely positioned to benefit from the post-Oprah shuffle in daytime. She’s now getting huge primetime exposure in her role as a judge on Fox’s “American Idol” — which was one of the factors that spurred the Fox stations’ interest in DeGeneres’ daytime show. (DeGeneres’ debut on Tuesday’s edition of “Idol” drew a hefty 10.1 rating/26 share in adults 18-49 and 27.89 million viewers, according to Nielsen.) And from a tonal perspective, “Ellen’s” upbeat blend of yak and variety elements is the closest to “Oprah Winfrey” of all the established players in daytime.

With “Ellen’s” future in top markets settled, the big question now is what the ABC O&Os will do after Winfrey. Some of the stations, including flagship WABC-TV New York, have let it be known that they intend to program another hour of local news in Winfrey’s old slot. But other Alphabet-owned outlets including KABC-TV Los Angeles and WLS-TV Chicago, the station where “Oprah Winfrey” got its start in 1986, are said to have made a big play for “Ellen.”

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