NBC-owned stations lock up “Ellen” through 2014

Ellen DeGeneres is staying put on NBC’s 10-owned stations — setting the stage for what could become a tighter local ratings race starting next year.

With Oprah Winfrey set to end her show in 2011, many had speculated that ABC’s station group might make a play for “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” to fill the void. That’s because, in a stroke of luck for Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution, NBC’s “Ellen” deal was set to expire in fall 2011– at the very moment Oprah was leaving syndication to focus on OWN, her new cable joint venture with Discovery.

Warner Bros. was likely able to capitalize on that fact in pre-emptively striking a new deal with the Peacock stations. 

NBC stations could now see their late afternoon performance rise in markets such as New York, once WNBC’s “Ellen” no longer faces off with WABC’s “Oprah.” “Ellen” could also gain in Los Angeles, where KNBC’s run currently goes up against an “Oprah”-fueled newscast on KABC. (“Oprah” airs in the morning in Chicago, where WMAQ’s “Ellen” faces off against WLS’ “Inside Edition” and “Jeopardy” airings.)

With “Ellen” no longer an option, that likely increases speculation that the ABC stations may expand its local news presence in markets such as New York. (In Los Angeles, KABC already airs news at 4 p.m.). There’s also growing talk that ABC might move “The View” into Oprah’s old spot on its owned stations, or shuffle its entire daytime lineup in order to shift that gabfest into the afternoon. (Speculation is also building that ABC might take “The View” off the network and hand it over to its syndication arm.)

ABC stations insiders, meanwhile, noted that “Ellen” hasn’t helped as a news lead-in for NBC-owned stations’ early local newscasts. Whether that changes once “Oprah” departs remains to be seen.

News of the “Ellen” renewal was made by Warner Bros. Domestic TV Distribution prexy Ken Werner and NBC Local Media division honcho John Wallace.

“Ellen is one of those unique personalities that comes along once in a generation,” Werner said. “Her program has been embraced by viewers as their generation’s talk franchise, and we couldn’t be happier that the NBC stations will continue to have ‘Ellen’ as the cornerstone of their syndicated lineup for years to come.”

“Ellen” first launched on the NBC-owned stations in September 2003 and had been previously renewed through 2010–2011. By the end of the three-year renewal, “Ellen” will be in its 11th season.

According to Warners, “Ellen” is tied as the #2 talk show in syndication among women 25–54.

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