Off to see the doctor… The Wonderful Doctor of Oz

The early returns for Dr. Oz have been positive and Sony Pictures Television and Harpo Productions hope Oz can lead the company down the Yellow Brick Road to riches.

The three day average of Dr. Oz – a new medical talk show hosted by Mehmet Oz which premiered on Sept. 14 – had a three day average of a 1.7 household rating and a 5 household share, according to Nielsen, up 31 percent from its lead-in and year-ago (September 2008) time-period averages.

Dr. Oz is cleared mainly on Fox stations in top markets, including WFLD-TV in Chicago. Among the six Fox-owned stations carrying the show, positive stories have been reported in every market, except KTBC-TV in Austin, TX, where it is down from year-ago time-period shares.

In Chicago at 4 p.m., WFLD is flat from year-ago time period averages (Cops and King of the Hill), but is up 200% in the key women 25-54 demographic. At 10 a.m., Dr. Oz scored increases over September 2008 occupant Morning Show with Mike & Juliet by 67% in women 25-54 and 20% in households.

Sony hopes the new talk show – produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions – become the hit the syndicator hasn’t had since the heyday of Ricki Lake over a decade ago.

Originally known as Columbia Pictures Television, the company hit it big in 1993 with its first first-run syndicated effort in years with Lake, a successful young-female skewing talk show which ran until she retired from the grind in 2004. But the effort to launch another hit show of that caliber stalled in the past decade with the failures of Men Are From Mars Women Are From Venus, Shipmates, Pyramid, Pat Croce: Moving In, Life & Style, The Greg Behrendt Show, Judge Maria Lopez, and Judge Karen.

The worst of these shows were Shipmates, Life & Style, and Greg Behrendt – all three salvaged by critics and barely watched by viewers.

A major syndicated hit for Sony would be terrific since the studio is one of the few in the business without a major station group at its disposal to launch a show on (a.k.a. “vertical integration”)

Sony does produce Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, but does not handle distribution (CBS Television Distribution handles domestic and international syndication rights.)

Much like Dr. Phil before it, Dr. Oz made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show once every week before getting his own talk show. But while Dr. Phil is syndicated by CBS Television Distribution, Oz is distributed by Sony – it picked up the rights since a similar show (The Doctors) is already distributed by CTD – and is produced by Jay McGraw, the son of Dr. Phil McGraw.

With the backing of Oprah Winfrey, Dr. Oz may finally break Sony’s losing streak.