Maury Povich Reflects on How Paternity Tests Became His Show's Ticket to Ratings Gold (Exclusive)

ET spoke with the talk show titan about the secret to his success on daytime TV.

While Maury Povich is considered to be one of the titans of daytime TV talk show hosts, in his mind, he's just surviving in the competitive space.

The 80-year-old TV personality recently sat down with ET and opened up about how he's managed to make a career that truly lasted, and how his iconic paternity tests became a staple of his hit show, Maury.

According to Povich, he sees himself as less of a TV titan and more of a "survivor."

"There are 75 daytime talk shows in the graveyard, so you worry about that all the time," Povich admitted. "You just don't want to go to the cemetery."

Premiering in 1991 under the original name The Maury Povich Show -- which changed to simply Maury in 1995 -- Povich's famous and often controversial talk show has been on TV for 29 seasons and aired over 2,600 episodes.

One of the biggest keys to the show's success came from its sensational presentation of paternity tests. He found talk show ratings gold with that one provocative question: "Who's the daddy?"

"They said, 'We have this idea. We want to do paternity tests, and we can have a result within 10 or 12 minutes,'" Povich recalled. "And the audience, all they're looking for is a result. You build that up with the drama."

However, for Povich, it was important that his reactions and responses were as genuine and real as possible for the drama to play out realistically.

"I said, 'I don't wanna know the result [before hand]. I don't wanna know anything more than my guests. I don't wanna think anything more than my audience. My live audience, my audience at home. If I know the answer, I will skew my questions,'" he said. "And that was the key… because I'm as surprised as they are!"

That key unlocked nearly three decades of success for Povich, who now only has to work two days a week and makes an estimated $13 million per year. That's not bad for a host who says he's only trying to survive in the daytime TV landscape.