Ever since allegations about mistreatment of staffers by her producers surfaced last month, questions have swirled about the future of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," a staple of daytime TV since 2003.
Which heads will roll? Will she quit? Is the show even returning this fall? And if she leaves, who might replace her? (As #ReplaceEllen trended on Twitter Monday, fans were not shy about suggesting potential hosts, ranging from James Corden to Harry Styles to Michelle Obama.)
DeGeneres expressed regret at the accusations of racism, intimidation and sexual harassment leveled by unnamed former staffers against some of her producers. But her apology was quickly followed by finger-pointing at her for being oblivious – or, worse, turning a blind eye – to the misbehavior, or by critics (including actors Brad Garrett and Lea Thompson) who piled on, blaming her.
Critics, and supporters: Katy Perry and Portia de Rossi defend Ellen DeGeneres as Brad Garrett, others react to scandal
In her statement last week, DeGeneres said she initially promised her show "would be a place of happiness – no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry." She vowed staff changes, and at least one of three executive producers, Ed Glavin, is expected to leave, The Hollywood Reporter said.
Her apology was quickly followed by tabloid speculation that she'd walk away from her show – and her fat paycheck, estimated at more than $50 million a year – even though she has two years left on a contract extension she signed in May 2019.
Warner Bros., which produces and distributes the show to local stations around the country, betrayed no plans to call it quits. "Nobody is going off the air," tweeted executive producer Andy Lassner on Thursday.
"'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' will return on Sept. 9," the studio's senior VP Blake Bryant added Monday, declining further comment.
Ending the show would not be so easy. With an average of 2.4 million viewers last season, "Ellen" is the No. 3 talk show in syndication, behind "Dr. Phil" and "Live! with Kelly and Ryan." And unlike "The View," a network series that airs on nearly all of ABC's stations, mostly at the same time, "Ellen" is syndicated, and airs in a variety of time slots and on stations affiliated with different networks across the country. Those stations signed contracts and pay separate license fees to air the show.
DeGeneres's A Very Good Production is also behind several current Warner Bros. shows, from NBC's "Ellen's Game of Games and "Little Big Shots" to Netflix's "Green Eggs and Ham," complicating a separation.
And even if DeGeneres were to bail when her contract expires in May 2022, Warner Bros. couldn't simply plug in a new host. The studio would effectively be launching an entirely new show, and would have to sell it to those stations all over again.
"This is a big show in syndication," says Stacey Schulman, chief marketing officer of Katz Media Group, which advises local stations on programming. "There aren't many shows that bring in (those) ratings." Schulman also draws a distinction between delaying the launch of Nick Cannon's planned talk show after his anti-Semitic remarks and ending an established hit with a 17-year track record.
"It's not just filling a hole, it's filling a hole that's a ratings juggernaut," Schulman says. So it's "highly unlikely" stations could replace it with a comparable replacement.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ellen DeGeneres: Why mistreatment charges unlikely to end talk show