Ellen DeGeneres during a taping of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. (Getty/Brooks Kraft)
Staff on The Ellen DeGeneres Show have said ratings, advertising and celebrity bookings are tanking since the show became embroiled in a toxic workplace scandal.
DeGeneres found herself at the centre of a media storm in July when former and current employees alleged that the show was plagued by racism, fear and intimidation behind the scenes.
Warner Brothers promptly launched an investigation, which concluded in August and led to the departure of three senior producers on the show. DeGeneres later addressed the controversy in her opening monologue kicking off the eighteenth season of the long-running talkshow in September, telling viewers that she is a “work in progress”.
But months on, staff told Buzzfeed News that the show is struggling to book A-list celebrity guests and is losing advertisers at what should be its busiest time of year.
A current employee on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, who did not want to be named, said they have less advertisers and sponsors than usual. They said that the shift could not be entirely blamed on the coronavirus pandemic.
Another staff member, who also did not want to be named, said employees working on the show are producing less original content because there is less money coming in from advertisers. The result, the employee said, is that they are recycling old clips from past seasons.
Another worker on the show said that Ellen has “basically claimed Christmas on daytime TV” in years gone by, but 2020 has proven different. Each year, the show runs “12 Days of Giveaways” segments where the audience receives expensive gifts – however, this year is “more condensed” as the show does not have as many sponsors.
“This feels like our make-it-or-break-it moment,” the employee told Buzzfeed. “This will be our biggest report card. If we pick up sponsors by the new year, then we’re cooking, we’ll be fine, and we’ll sell kindness in a bottle. But if we fail that report card, who knows.”
However, a source close to the show denied that The Ellen DeGeneres Show is in trouble, saying the pandemic has had a knock-on effect on all aspects of the show.
Publicists are reluctant to put clients on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Meanwhile, it is getting harder for the show to book A-list celebrities, an employee said, claiming that staff were asked at the start of season 18 to pitch ideas for interviews – something that had not happened before.
Staff were allegedly told that the show needed “help” with booking guests because the “old strategy” was no longer working.
High-profile publicists, who also did not want to be named, told Buzzfeed that they are reluctant to put celebrities on The Ellen DeGeneres Show right now because they don’t want them to be part of “her comeback tour”.
We’re not going to align anyone with Ellen.
“I wouldn’t set up anyone on her show right now to do anything that could possibly cause them more negative headlines,” a publicist said.
The publicist said they did not want to put clients “in any line of fire” where they could be seen to sympathise with DeGeneres.
“We’re not going to align anyone with Ellen,” the publicist added.
However, a source close to the show insisted that The Ellen DeGeneres Show is not struggling to book celebrities, saying that they are “fully booked” with many guests being “exclusive to Ellen”.
On Thursday (10 December), DeGeneres announced that she had tested positive for COVID-19.
The talkshow host took to Twitter to confirm that she tested positive for coronavirus by sharing a screenshot of an iPhone Notes page.
“Hi everyone, I want to let you all know that I tested positive for COVID-19,” DeGeneres wrote.
“Fortunately, I’m feeling fine right now. Anyone who has been in close contact with me has been notified, and I am following all proper CDC guidelines.
“I’ll see you all again after the holidays. Please stay healthy and safe. Love, Ellen.”
The news comes at the tail end of a turbulent year for the embattled television host, in which she was accused of being “one of the meanest people alive” and saw her “kind” reputation torn to shreds.