Regis Philbin's Ratings Shoot Up

Friday, September 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Kathie Lee who?

Ratings for Regis Philbin's daily talk show have been soaring since his former co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford, left on July 28.

The first three weeks of ``Live with Regis'' this summer had 26 percent more viewers than the same three weeks of ``Live with Regis and Kathie Lee'' last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

Since Gifford's tearful departure after 15 years next to Philbin on the syndicated show, he has worked with a succession of guests, including Dolly Parton this week.

Executive producer Michael Gelman said he is not really surprised by the ratings surge. Gifford had her fans, but she was a polarizing figure, he said.

``When she said goodbye, it opened us up to a whole new audience of those who either might not have been fans or hadn't even thought about the show,'' he said.

Gelman and Philbin had already planned to take their time selecting a replacement. The Nielsen numbers mean their bosses won't be pressuring to hurry.

The people responsible for the show have even discussed not naming a permanent co-host, Gelman said.

``But I think we all at some point want to settle down with somebody,'' Gelman said. ``We're just not going to rush it because I don't think there's a need to.''

Sarah Ferguson has been confirmed as a guest host next week, with Raquel Welch, Whoopi Goldberg and Gloria Estefan waiting in the wings.

The week of Oct. 2, Philbin will work with unknowns who have sent in tapes to apply for the job. Gelman said more than 1,000 applications were received before ``Live with Regis'' even asked for any.

He wouldn't venture a guess on when a permanent co-host will be in place.

``The downside of putting the wrong person there is much worse than just waiting and letting something organically develop,'' he said.