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Ask Rita Gets a Jump Start

At the request of the four ABC owned-and-operated stations that bought Ask Rita, Litton Syndications launched the strip last week to give them a program to eventually lead out of ABC's news late-night network talk show, Jimmy Kimmel Live.

On Ask Rita, comic Rita Rudner and a panel of celebrities take questions and answer with glib one-liners as well as giving some real advice. So far, Litton has taped 28 shows that included Rudner and guest panelists Steve Martin, Dennis Miller, Howie Mandel, Heidi Fleiss, Teri Garr and Emily Proctor.

"With four witty stars competing for one-liners, it's a fun, fast show," says David Morgan, president and CEO of Litton, based in Sullivan's Island, S.C.

Litton launched Ask Rita
on Jan. 27, much earlier than planned, because the stations wanted the show to be ready to follow Kimmel
when he premiered after the Super Bowl. In those four markets—New York, Chicago, Houston and Raleigh, N.C.—the show airs after Warner Bros. Domestic Television's The Caroline Rhea Show, which isn't expected to be renewed for next fall. Litton and the stations are hoping they can then move Ask Rita
up to 1 a.m. in those markets, immediately following Kimmel.

Though willing to cut similar deals with ABC stations in other markets, Litton has been pleased to receive some daytime slots as well. The syndicator left the NATPE gathering last month with clearances on independent WGTW-TV Philadelphia at 5:30 p.m., NBC affiliate WTMJ-TV Milwaukee at 2 p.m., NBC affiliate KNAZ-TV Phoenix at 4 p.m. and The WB 100+ stations at 12:30 p.m. Litton also has cleared the show on LIN-owned WNAC-TV Providence, R.I., and WCTX(TV) Hartford, Conn.

Litton is close to signing a deal to air the show in daytime, late night or both in Los Angeles, Morgan said. Litton expects the show to be cleared in 70%-80% of the country by April and to begin receiving a national Nielsen rating.

Ask Rita
does especially well in Las Vegas, where the comic has her own theater at hotel/casino New York, New York and does standup most nights there.

At 10 a.m. on NBC affiliate KVBC(TV) Las Vegas, which has already been airing the show, Ask Rita
did a 5.1 rating/15 share leading out of the Today
show on Monday, Jan. 27, and averaged a 4.6/13 for the hour.