For several months now, Ellen DeGeneres has been at the center of a long scandal that, at one point, looked as though it would end her career.
DeGeneres stands accused of abusing her staff and allowing a toxic work environment, in which her employees felt belittled, bullied, and stressed to the breaking point.
Throughout much of the summer, staffers came forward with tales of mistreatment that stunned Ellen's army of longtime fans, many of whom thought of her as the kindly do-gooder she's portrayed as on on screen.
For a time it looked as though DeGeneres' popular daytime talk show would be canceled in order to avoid further scandal.
But following an investigation by Warner Media, it was decided that the problems on Ellen's set could be handled internally, allowing for the show to continue.
Three producers were fired, Ellen issued an on air apology, and she clearly hoped that she would be able to simply move on from the scandal.
However, as she returns for her 18th season in syndication, DeGeneres is faced with a new question:
Will her audience return along with her following six solid months of bad press?
Thus far, it seems the answer is no.
Preliminary reports indicated that execs were concerned Ellen would lose her audience
According to a shocking new report from USA Today those fears have been confirmed.
The newspaper claims that DeGeneres' ratings are down a whopping 38 percent from this time last year.
The show averaged 1.66 million viewers for the week of Sept. 21, down from 2.67 million for the the same week in 2019.
But it's not all bad news for Ellen and her remaining staff.
USA Today reports that several of the comic's top competitors have experienced ratings declines in the new fall season, as well.
The Kelly Clarkson Show fell 19% from last year, Dr. Phil was down 18%, Wendy Williams dropped 24%, and Dr. Oz was down 17% in their first weeks back on the air.
Of course, none of those drops were as steep as DeGeneres'.
Making matters worse is the fact that Ellen's daytime juggernaut was long thought to be a more stable commodity than shows like Dr. Phil or Wendy Williams, which made it more attractive to advertisers.
Talk shows always experience a decline in viewership when they're competing with eventful news cycles and (in some markets) championship sports.
But Ellen's dips were usually smaller, shorter, and more manageable than her competition's.
And not every daytime show is losing viewers to cable news networks amid the non-stop drama of 2020.
Some, such as Live With Kelly and Ryan and Tamron Hall have actually experienced increases in their ratings.
So is it time for Ellen and her bosses to start panicking?
Well, not necessarily.
The show still pulls in a considerable share of its market, and advertisers will always be drawn to a family-friendly series that consistently draws in more than a million viewers.
But if this trend continues, DeGeneres may want to start thinking about the next stage in her career.