Daytime TV talk show ratings have surged this season, and the jockeying between the competing shows has been heating up.
Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday welcomed back fan favorites, the British cousins Sophia Grace Brownlee and Rosie Mcclelland, to her Warner Bros.-produced syndicated show.
The frilly pink-dressed girls' initial visits more than two years ago were instrumental in helping DeGeneres recruit legions of teenagers and young women to "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," as well as her YouTube channel.
The cousins' appearances on DeGeneres' stage also helped catapult them into pint-sized media stars.
On Wednesday, DeGeneres engaged in girl talk with the girls, including their shared love of bubble baths, the status of Rosie's loose tooth and the movie "Titanic."
"Titanic," according to the two pre-teen girls, ends not on a gloomy note but with the main character, Rose, going off to live on an island.
"So Rose ends up on the island. That's great! Maybe there will be a sequel to 'Titanic,' " DeGeneres deadpanned.
The British cousins, ages 8 and 11, were in Burbank to promote next month's DVD release of "Sophia Grace & Rosie's Royal Adventure." The movie, also produced by Warner Bros., was filmed in South Africa.
This season, DeGeneres' talk show audience has grown 15%, to 3.9 million viewers an episode. Despite the growth, her show has been overtaken by "Live With Kelly and Michael," which is produced by WABC Television, part of Walt Disney Co.
Among all viewers, "Live With Kelly and Michael," with Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, has notched wins over "Ellen" in recent weeks. The ratings race is shaping up to be one of the tightest in television.
This season, the audience for "Live" has grown 14% to nearly 4 million viewers an episode.
The success also has fueled Strahan's popularity and prospects. The former professional football player is expected to begin making appearances on ABC's "Good Morning America," which surpassed longtime leader NBC's "Today" in the ratings more than a year ago.
"Dr. Phil," which is produced by CBS Television Distribution, remains the No. 1 daytime talk show, attracting 4.2 million viewers on average. Its audience has grown 6% this season.
DeGeneres, however, has maintained a slight edge among the important daytime TV demographic of women ages 25 to 54. In that category, DeGeneres holds the ratings crown by a slim margin over "Dr. Phil" and "Live."
Meanwhile, the gap is narrowing between competing network-produced talk shows. CBS' "The Talk," with Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Aisha Tyler, Sharon Osbourne and Sheryl Underwood, is making strides against the entrenched incumbent on ABC, "The View," with Barbara Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy.
(Wednesday on "The View," Shepherd and McCarthy went topless to discuss Lena Dunham's role on "Girls" on HBO.)
Viewership for "The Talk," which is in its fourth season, is up 19%, to 2.85 million viewers an episode. Audiences levels for "The View" are down about 5% compared with last season, but it maintains its edge, averaging 3.13 million viewers an episode.