Change can be scary — especially for a TV show that swaps hosts or faces new competition. Here's a look at how a few longtime favorites have been handling tough transitions.
Live! With Kelly
Regis Philbin sat next to Kelly Ripa for 11 years, so it would've been a good bet the daytime mainstay would drop in the ratings after his departure. But Ripa's carousel of male guest hosts (52 as of May 16, including Michael Strahan and Seth Meyers) has actually boosted the ratings among women under 50.
"We knew [rotating guest hosts] would work because we did the same thing before we made the transition from Kathie Lee Gifford to Kelly," says exec producer Michael Gelman. "We let the audience be a part of the process." There is no timetable for picking a permanent cohost, Gelman adds. But there will be one eventually. "We keep repeating the people we like," Gelman says. "We call it dating. We'll settle down when it feels right."
Nine months ago, the press was describing Conan O'Brien's move to TBS as a step toward late-night obscurity. But the addition of high-rated reruns of The Big Bang Theory to the TBS prime-time lineup has made Coco hot again as a lot of those viewers are sticking around. "We're getting a real lead-in," says exec producer Jeff Ross. Conan has averaged 1.1 million viewers in 2012, up 25 percent from the fourth quarter of 2011. He's also got the younger viewers advertisers want — beating all of the late-night competition on ABC, CBS and NBC in the 18-34 age group.
Conan has been gaining pop-culture clout as well. When Will Ferrell appeared as Ron Burgundy on March 28 to announce the sequel to Anchorman, O'Brien teased the segment to his 5.5 million Twitter followers. The day after the segment aired, it was the talk of morning television, reaching a total of 8 million viewers on national and local outlets.
Remember when NBC's The Voice premiered to spectacular post-Super Bowl numbers and American Idol was so over? While Idol is down from last year, it stayed well ahead of The Voice in viewers (19.1 million viewers versus 15.9 million) and should eventually pass it in the 18-49 demo. The 11.9 million who watched the season finale of The Voice was lower than every Wednesday episode of Idol.
Fox execs have always insisted that ratings for singing competitions thrive or dive based on the quality of contestants. "The Voice is gimmick-driven," said one Fox insider. "Idol is about the kids."