With the possibility of several of its key syndicated shows ending after this season, Fox Television Stations has both influence and flexibility headed into 2022.
“The whole business is waiting to see what we do,” Frank Cicha, executive VP, programming, Fox Television Stations, said.
Fox faces losing as many as five shows after this season: Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams, Sony Pictures Television’s Dr. Oz, Debmar-Mercury’s Nick Cannon and Warner Bros.’ The Real. The group is also not bringing back rookie off-network sitcom Schitt’s Creek and it’s working on renewing freshman game show You Bet Your Life, starring Jay Leno.
Several shows are departing syndication, including some that don’t air on Fox-owned stations in major markets. Warner Bros.’ The Ellen DeGeneres Show is ending after this season, its 19th, after serving as the afternoon lynchpin of NBC stations for nearly two decades. NBCUniversal’s conflict talker, Maury, is ending production this spring and following the path of NBCU’s Jerry Springer and CBS Media Ventures’ Judge Judy by going into repeats on TV stations across the country. Dr. Oz is ending its run prematurely as the show’s host enters the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania. Wendy Williams has had to fill Williams’ slot with guest hosts all season long, with Williams out on an extended and indeterminate medical leave. Several other veterans — especially The Real and CBS Media Ventures’ The Doctors — are perennially on the bubble.
“There are a lot of variables right now and potential for major disruption,” Stephen Brown, executive VP of programming and development, Fox Television Stations and Fox First Run, said. “Everyone is thinking about, ‘If that goes away, what do I have?’ ”
Leno Show Is Best Freshman Bet to Return
Several other shows are waiting to get their renewal papers. Among this year’s rookies — Nick Cannon, You Bet Your Life and Wrigley Media’s Relative Justice — You Bet Your Life is the best bet to return, with Relative Justice also likely to come back.
“It’s a really well-executed show and Jay is amazing to work with,” Brown said. “We’re excited and encouraged about the prospect of a season two.”
Nick Cannon, which since its September 27 debut hasn’t broken a 0.5 live-plus-same-day national household Nielsen rating, might be more expensive to produce than it’s worth, although Fox seems willing to give it some time.
“Nick Cannon is a show that everyone likes,” Ira Bernstein, co-president of Debmar-Mercury, said. “Nick works relentlessly and tirelessly on promotion and on everything else. If our station partners want to stay with it, we’ll stay with it.”
Still, all of that potential change means there’s more room for new entrants on TV stations than there has been in years.
The biggest name in the development mix is former American Idol contestant and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, who is starring in a talk show produced by Warner Bros. and the executive producers of Ellen. Warner Bros. has not officially confirmed the show is in development but several TV station executives said they have seen the pitch and liked it.
While NBC seems like a likely spot for a Jennifer Hudson talker because of how
it might pair with NBCUniversal’s music-and-variety-focused The Kelly Clarkson Show, also starring an Idol alum, Fox is the group with space and flexibility. Fox, which only airs two hours of primetime per night and owns duopoly stations in many markets, has plenty of room to fill.
Wendy Williams postponed its premiere for a month before finally returning for season 13 on October 18 with an array of guest hosts, including actress Leah Remini and RuPaul gal pal and veteran deejay Michelle Visage; Sherri Shepherd; Whitney Cummings; Jerry Springer; Steve Wilkos; and a panel that includes former Page Six hosts Bevy Smith and Variety correspondent Elizabeth Wagmeister.
Thus far, Wendy Williams ratings don’t seem to be affected by the guest hosts, and Debmar-Mercury likes the opportunity it’s getting to test potential stars of new talk shows. Shepherd, a former co-host of The View and host of Fox’s Dish Nation, seems to be resonating with viewers.
“We could say ‘woe is me’ with Wendy out sick, or we could take advantage of the fact that we have a live show on which we’re putting guest hosts that could potentially host new talk shows for us,” Mort Marcus, co-president of Debmar Mercury, said.
“It’s an interesting test that you couldn’t afford to do if you didn’t have an ongoing show,” Bernstein said.
Indeed, Cicha has long said he’d love to run ongoing test shows of several weeks each, but syndication economics typically forbid that. “I would love to take an unfavorable situation and turn it into something new that could work,” he said.
‘Dr. Oz’ Show Up in Air Amid Senate Campaign
As far as Dr. Oz goes, when Dr. Mehmet Oz announced his Senate run in Pennsylvania, Fox had to pull the show on WNYW New York and WTXF Philadelphia in order to avoid the FCC’s equal time rules, Fox Television Stations spokeswoman Erica Keane said. WNYW is carried by small cable operators in northeast Pennsylvania, making it susceptible to the rule.
For now, WTXF is filling Dr. Oz’s 2 p.m. ET slot with a repeat of the 9 a.m. hour of Good Day Philadelphia while WNYW is running The Real at 1 p.m. ET.
On December 13, Sony Pictures Television confirmed that a Dr. Oz spinoff, The Good Dish, would take that show’s place on stations in more than 90% of the country, including on Fox, Nexstar, Sinclair and Gray stations, while Dr. Oz will end January 14, 2022. The Good Dish — hosted by Oz’s daughter, Daphne, a former host of ABC’s The Chew and a judge on Fox’s MasterChef Junior; Top Chef’s Gail Simmons; and Food Network’s Jamika Pessoa — will premiere Monday, January 17, 2022. The Good Dish has aired as a regular segment on Dr. Oz and Sony has been shopping the concept in syndication for the past couple of years.
Fox also has picked up new game show Pictionary, hosted by Jerry O’Connell. The TV station group tested the show last summer in partnership with CBS Media Ventures. If Fox renews You Bet Your Life and 25 Words or Less, as expected, the group has a solid game block in progress. Fox has been gradually turning to day-and-date programming, magazines and game shows in prime access instead of sitcoms.
“The goal with shows like Pictionary and 25 Words or Less is that after we let all of these [off-network] comedies go, we need to keep trying these kinds of [smaller budget] shows because we are going to need them on the second stations and sometimes on the primary stations. These kinds of bets are worth it,” Cicha said.
NBCUniversal also is quite busy as all of its conflict talkers — Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos — are up for renewal, as well as court/talk hybrid Judge Jerry. NBCU is shopping a new conflict talker starring Maury guest host Karamo Brown that looks like it will launch this fall on the former Tribune stations now owned by Nexstar Media Group. Those stations have traditionally been the home of the NBCU conflict talkers, where they fill afternoons on such stations as KTLA Los Angeles.
“These shows are still resonating with viewers, so we are optimistic,” Sean O’Boyle, executive VP, general sales manager, NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, said.
“We like Karamo for this lane,” Tracie Wilson, president, NBCUniversal Syndication Studios, said. “He embraces the edgier content. We’ve worked with him for a couple of years and he’s been on Maury quite a few times. We’re excited to build that genre a bit. We’re the leaders in it and it’s time for some fresh faces.”
NBCU also is in active development on several projects that the group isn’t ready to discuss yet and continues to make a business out of its off-net properties, including a repackaged version of Dateline and hour-long procedurals such as Dick Wolf’s Law & Order and Chicago franchises.
Also still in the mix is Drew Barrymore, should CBS successfully renew it on stations across the country for season three, and a talk show starring Niecy Nash that would be produced by James Corden’s production company. ■
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Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.
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