The TV Column: Regis Philbin, like Oprah, signs off

Philbin announced on Tuesday morning's show, which he has hosted for more than two decades, that this will be his last season as host.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 18, 2011; 10:52 PM

Rege is retiring!

Regis Philbin announced Tuesday morning that this is his last season as host of his infotainment show "Live! With Regis and Whoever." His current contract to do the show expires this year.

"I've got one of those announcements to make today . . . this will be my last year on this show," Rege told his studio audience.

"Awww," the audience responded.

After Rege's announcement, Disney, which owns the outfit that syndicates his show, sent out an e-mail alerting the media that the "Live!" franchise will continue Rege-less, and that "in the coming months Disney/ABC Television Group" will be naming a new co-host "to join the talented and captivating Kelly Ripa."

Presumably, one who will be paid less - Forbes reported that the contract previous to his current one was worth more than $20 million annually. And, Disney hopes, one who can goose "Live's!" ratings.

Now that Oprah is retiring from daytime talk-show syndication, all syndicators are making a play to take over her reign as queen of daytime talk TV. And "Live!" isn't that far behind Oprah. For the week that ended Jan. 2 - the most recent for which Nielsen syndicated stats are available - Oprah clocked 6.2 million viewers, and "Live!" logged just less than 4 million. And there are lots more daytime viewers out there. That same week, the syndicated "Wheel of Fortune" averaged nearly 12 million viewers and "Jeopardy!" logged more than 9 million.

Back to Rege breaking the news to his audience Tuesday morning:

Rege: "It's been 28 years since I've been here and it was the biggest thrill of my life to come back to New York where I grew up as a kid watching TV in the early days. . . . blah, blah, blah. . . . And look at this over here!" he says, putting his arm around co-host Kelly as the audience cheers wildly.

Kelly: "I think I can only speak for America and all of us here when I say it is - been a pleasure and a privilege and a dream come true. And I wish I could do something to make you change your mind."

Rege: "Well, now wait a minute!"

Kelly: "Now wait a second!"

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