Anderson Cooper didn't make it. Neither did Jeff Probst or Ricki Lake, who lasted one season in daytime TV. Even Katie Couric, whose stint on NBC's Today show made her "America's sweetheart," has turned in disappointing ratings and may end her run next May.
This month brings two newcomers: Former Real Housewife Bethenny Frankel and actress/singer Queen Latifah, who returns to the early-career stint she had from 1999 to 2001. Bethenny premieres Monday, and The Queen Latifah Show launches Sept. 16 (check local listings).
"The daytime landscape has changed dramatically in the past few years, especially since Oprah left the air," says Bill Carroll of Katz Television Group. "With more choices, including cable, and declines in daytime viewing on broadcast, it is very tough to break through, even for a known personality."
Adds Cathleen Campe, senior vice president of the Los Angeles ad firm RPA: "It's more fragmented. The days of an Oprah coming along are long gone."
In addition, daytime's long-running hits, such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Dr. Phil, occupy some of the most desirable stations and time slots, often leaving new shows to fill spots held by failed shows.
For Latifah, the chance to enter the field was appealing. "This was to me the first actual interesting offer in terms of doing a talk show. Before that, there was nothing I was interested in doing. This was more of a partnership. We could do something unique, tailored around me," she says.
Frankel says her appearances on three Bravo shows, including Bethenny Ever After, earned her a built-in audience of women. "Having revealed myself and my life means I already have a relationship with several of these viewers," she told USA TODAY this summer. "There's a trust. It's a new world, a new regime now, where you can't go on TV and be one person and be another person off-camera."
As Couric and Lake proved, strong name recognition or talk-show experience is no guarantee of success. But "Queen Latifah is such an attractive celebrity," says Lisa Herdman of RPA. "She's very much the everyday woman and I also think she's very likable among her celebrity peers. Bethenny has a following. She's going to be attractive because of where she is in her own life right now. Her reality show was about her getting married and having a baby and those struggles. Now she's getting a divorce. ... I think she's going to be less about celebrities and more about the viewer and how the viewer can relate to her."
Queen Latifah is launching with a big celebrity lineup, including John Travolta, Jamie Foxx, Sharon Stone, Jake Gyllenhaal and Will Smith. Frankel will welcome Nick Cannon and Stacy Keibler and feature such segments as "Decode Your Dirty Dreams" and "Bethenny Tries Naked Yoga."
Carroll says there's a good chance viewers will sample the shows, which is an important start. Then, they must find a way to hold on to a decent share of them, although the numbers for success today are lower than in the past.
And while he has praise for the launch of Lake's talk-show return last season, he says that she wasn't able to hold on to the now-older viewers who watched her previous hit show. He thinks people were overly optimistic about Couric's chances and that "the real test is going to be whether they can build on that this year. There are no guarantees."
Contributing: Donna Freydkin and Olivia Barker