In the summer of 2020, BuzzFeed News reported on a toxic workplace environment at The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Their report used sources from ten former employees and one employee that was working on the show at the time. While they all remained anonymous, their stories were similar. The executives on the show made their work miserable. Sexual misconduct was commonplace. One employee left after they were tired of hearing comments about their race. Others reported that they were fired after taking time off for family funerals. They all agreed that The Ellen DeGeneres Show, with a “Be Kind” motto, was a toxic place to work.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show is now six months into its 18th season. A fair amount of time has passed since these allegations were made public. Now, we’re seeing evidence of how these serious reports have affected viewership. The New York Times looked into the ratings for the show. Last year during the first six months of the season, it averaged 2.6 million viewers. The past six months have seen an average of 1.5 million viewers. That’s down 43%, and the pandemic shouldn’t be blamed. Compared to the competition, The Ellen DeGeneres Show is suffering.
After these allegations were made known via BuzzFeed News, Warner Bros. investigated the set. Their public report said that they had found “deficiencies”. Three producers were fired, including Kevin Leman, Ed Glavin, and Jonathan Norman. At the premiere of the 18th season of The Ellen DeGeneres Show in September, she issued an apology on-air. “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.” Evidently, the apology didn’t manage to bring back nearly half of her regular viewers.
The numbers show that 1.5 million viewers isn’t bad for a daytime talk show with a newer host. The Tamron Hall Show or The Kelly Clarkson Show have similar numbers. But for an established brand like Ellen DeGeneres has, these numbers show a sharp decline. The program has also lost 20% of its ad revenue. While The Ellen Degeneres Show is her main program, she also has Ellen’s Game of Games during NBC’s primetime lineup. That program has suffered a loss of 32% of its viewership.
In the original allegations, the former employees said that they weren’t allowed to speak to Ellen DeGeneres on set if they ran into her in the hallways. They made it sound as though the show’s host kept strict policies that made it easy to ignore what was happening on set. One of the former employees told BuzzFeed News, “If she wants to have her own show and have her name on the show title, she needs to be more involved to see what’s going on.” They added that they speculated Ellen DeGeneres was widely ignorant of the workplace culture. They said that Ellen likely heard from the producers that things were great. “She just believes that, but it’s her responsibility to go beyond that.”
While all celebrities rely on being likable, it seems more important when you’re the host of a television show. This is particularly true for the brand behind Ellen DeGeneres. We know her for being kind. For getting back up again when Hollywood was unkind to her. Discovering that the workplace was toxic shattered this idea. It seems like that was too much for at least a million of her fans to reconcile with.