The last puzzle of WPLG’s old strategy to air entertainment shows instead of news at 5pm is done and dead. As of yesterday ‘Judge Judy’ has moved to WFOR airing from 3 to 4pm on weekdays followed by Dr. Phil at 4pm.
SFLTV was first to report way back in 2004 that WPLG parent company Post-Newsweek Stations won the bidding war for the rights to air ‘Dr. Phil’ and ‘Judge Judy’ starting in 2006. At the time Oprah was still on WFOR at 4pm and since her production company Harpo was behind the Dr. Phil show it forbade the licensees from airing it at the same time as the Oprah show. That meant only one thing, Phil would be on at 4pm or 5pm. Then WPLG surprised everyone with their strategy – removing the 5pm newscast due to its low ratings and using the highly rated ‘Judy’ and ‘Phil’ to feed viewers into their 6pm newscast instead.
Monday September 11, 2006 arrived, WSVN launched a 4pm newscast in place of ‘Judge Judy’ and the next day SFLTV had the Miami TV ratings snapshot. ‘Judge Judy’ ranked behind Oprah and WSVN 7News at 4pm, while the news on WFOR, WTVJ and WSVN beat Dr. Phil at 5pm. As time went though on WPLG’s strategy worked, the station’s ratings at 5pm went up dramatically and the audience stayed for the 6pm news. It was enough to make WNBC and WTVJ locally to replace their 5pm newscasts with entertainment shows as well.
But then Dr. Phil’s popularity started to decline, other TV stations who had used the show as a lead-in to their newscasts moved it to a different time slot or, like WPTV in West Palm Beach, didn’t renew it altogether. Then on August 8, 2011 we suddenly learned that within two weeks WPLG would be removing ‘Dr. Phil’ from its timeslot and reinstating the newscast he replaced at 5pm. And the once popular ‘Judge Judy’ was replaced by newcomer Katie Couric and her brand new show ‘Katie’. Someone at WPLG must be crossing their fingers and hoping viewers still like Katie as much as they did when she was on NBC’s ‘Today’ show, six years ago.