NEW YORK — Oprah Winfrey is opening her talk show’s 24th season with a flourish. One week of programs include a Chicago block party with the Black Eyed Peas, an exclusive Whitney Houston interview, her first Dr. Phil visit in seven years and a trip to New York.
It’s hard to remember when it seemed more important.
Winfrey is still the queen of daytime television, but the aura of invincibility is gone. The average viewership for “The Oprah Winfrey Show” slipped under 7 million last season, down 7 percent from the year before, according to Nielsen Media Research. One week during the July rerun season, the show had its lowest ratings since its 1985 debut.
There are many possible explanations for the fade, including some over which Winfrey has no control. Ratings declines are common with so many choices and demands on time, particularly during the day. It’s even rarer for programs that have been on the air as long as Winfrey’s to grow.