‘dr. Phil’ has tried to reorganize in recent months as sponsors flee: sources

Dr. Phil’s decision to shut him down last week came months after producers unsuccessfully tried to revamp the longtime CBS daytime show in a desperate attempt to lure wayward advertisers, The News has learned. Post.

After years in which Dr. Phil staged dramatic “interventions” with wayward teenagers and bickering families — and in some cases accused of exploiting the problems of celebrities like Britney Spears and Shelley Duvall — CBS insiders feared viewers and advertisers would coalesce in Dr. Phil with other “quack doctors” who left television in recent years, multiple sources told The Post.

Indeed, despite the fact “Dr. Phil” averaged more than 2 million viewers in the 3 p.m. time slot — the second-highest-rated show of the day behind ABC’s “Live with Ryan and Kelly,” according to Nielsen – the show had gone radioactive for many sponsors, according to sources familiar with the situation.

“The ad queue was pretty much dead,” an insider said. “The show relied on CBS to book ads instead of relying on Dr. Phil’s brand.”

“With this time slot, you start at home,” another source said. “But he couldn’t hit any more home runs.”

A decade ago, the big corporate brands that backed “Dr. Phil” included American Express, Allstate and General Mills. But during an episode last week, commercial breaks were filled with spots for vitamin supplements. , personal injury law firms, public service announcements about vaccines and smoking cessation — plus multiple in-house ads for other CBS shows.

Dr. Phil has sometimes been accused of exploiting the problems of celebrities like Britney Spears.
Getty Images

“There was clearly a cash flow problem,” another insider told the Post. “They haven’t had advertisers from the past. This includes consumer brands.

In response, as the 21st season of “Dr. Phil” kicked off in September, CBS hired a new executive producer who wanted to emphasize Phil McGraw’s medical bona fides. more substantial like “medical gaslighting” rather than interpersonal drama, according to a memo obtained by The Post.

A fall episode addressed “Inclusiveness or Indoctrination? What is happening in schools today? — where McGraw and a panel of experts discussed transgender politics in schools. Other shows this season focused on hard news stories like gun violence and anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Nonetheless, the show’s bookers have struggled to field big-name panelists, sources say.

Shelley Du Vall
The show turned to more substantial topics like “medical gaslighting” rather than interpersonal drama.

“Dr. Phil was trying to siphon off the credibility of other doctors they were trying to book as guests…but they’re struggling to get credible guests,” an insider told the Post.

The Post has contacted CBS for comment. A spokesperson for McGraw declined to comment.

It’s a radical departure from just a few years ago, when Dr. Phil’s programming focused on helping troubled teens like the now-famous ‘cash me outside’ girl and helping women to leave toxic relationships.

CBS insiders worried that viewers and advertisers would associate Dr. Phil too closely with Dr. Oz.

Insiders add that some at CBS believe Phil’s TV character has come uncomfortably close to that of another TV daytime doctor – Mehmet Oz, who was running for a US Senate seat at launch. of the season.

Oz’s ratings — which had run into its own controversies over promoting alternative medicine and fad diets — had begun to plummet even before its bid for the Pennsylvania seat. As Dr. Phil’s ratings eclipsed those of Oz, producers grew increasingly concerned that viewers were “regrouping TV doctors,” according to a source.

“There are people who don’t know the difference between Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil,” the source said, adding that the producers say they’re convinced there’s “a Dr. Oz dive.”

Dr. Phil’s wholesale rebranding efforts came after the show last summer cut 25 employees in a bid to “streamline production to ensure longevity”.

A spokesperson for the show said the layoffs are “typical…. we discovered some roles we could reduce while still delivering our dynamic, forward-thinking program. »

Last year, Buzzfeed News reported that employees who worked on the show “experienced verbal abuse in a workplace that fosters fear, bullying and racism” and were “manipulated and treated in a unethical”. The show did not address these concerns.

A spokesperson for McGraw declined to comment.

Dr. Phil
Dr. Phil laid off 25 employees last year.
NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via

The show is scheduled to run through May. CBS Media Ventures, which produces “Dr. Phil,” will offer stations episodes from the show’s library for the 2023-2024 season and beyond. Classic episodes will include new content such as recaps and intros from McGraw, plus guest updates.

McGraw – who got his big break on “Oprah” 25 years ago, charming audiences with his folksy takes on social issues – said his next chapter will focus on a “primetime strategic partnership” that will “will increase its impact on television and viewers. He did not mention problems with advertisers when announcing his decision to leave.

“I am compelled to engage with a wider audience because I have serious concerns for the American family, and I am determined to help restore clarity of purpose as well as our core values,” McGraw said.


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