The Ellen DeGeneres Show has had a steep ratings decline since the host addressed accusations by former staff members that led to firings and an internal investigation, The New York Times reports.
When Ellen DeGeneres returned from a summer hiatus last year to open the 18th season of her daytime talk show in September, she came ready with an apology. “I learned that things happen here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.” Those remarks came as a result of reports of workplace misconduct on her show.
According to The New York Times, viewers tuned in for the apology that gave the opening show the highest ratings its seen in four years, but they didn’t stay, turning out soon afterwards. Ellen has lost more than a million viewers since September, according to Nielsen ratings, averaging 1.5 million viewers over the last six months, down from 2.6 million in the same period last year. The one million viewer loss translates to a 43 percent decline, representing a steeper drop than any of its competitors.
In addition to her daytime show, DeGeneres is also host of Ellen’s Game of Games, which has lost 32 percent of its viewers this season as well as 35 percent in the adult demographic important to advertisers.
Behind the scenes, current and former employees on The Ellen DeGeneres Show say they faced racism, fear, and intimidation, Buzzfeed reported. They said they were fired after taking medical leave or bereavement days to attend family funerals. One employee claims she was fed up with comments about her race and walked off the job. Others said they were instructed by their managers to not speak to DeGeneres if they saw her around the office.
A Black woman who used to work on The Ellen DeGeneres Show told BuzzFeed she experienced racist comments, actions, and “microaggressions” during her time as an employee. She said when she was hired, a senior-level producer told her and another Black employee, “Oh wow, you both have box braids; I hope we don’t get you confused.” At a work party, she said one of the main writers told her, “I’m sorry, I only know the names of the white people who work here,” and other coworkers “awkwardly laughed it off” bearing witness to the joke.
“I think it is a lot of smoke and mirrors when it comes to the show’s brand,” a former employee said, “They pull on people’s heartstrings; they do know that’s going to get likes and what people are going to go for, which is a positive message. But that’s not always reality.”