Distributors Race To Close Station Deals Pre-NATPE

The first-run syndication landscape for fall is coming into clearer view as distributors rush to close programming deals leading up to this month’s NATPE conference.

It now looks like Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks Show will join this fall’s other two freshman strips, NBC Universal’s Martha and Twentieth TV’s Judge Alex, in returning next season.

Executives at multiple station groups say Warner Bros. has renewed Tyra for a second season after the Fox O&Os picked it up again, along with Warner Bros.’ young Dr. Phil-like project featuring Keith Ablow for its UPN affiliates. A studio rep would not confirm the sales.

While the dual pickups are good news for Warner Bros., it would likely have to give up some double runs for Tyra on duopoly stations, which could impact her ratings next fall. That’s because Ablow took those time periods in the event Tyra failed to return.

Stations also are preparing to replace NBC Universal’s Starting Over in their lineups. NBC U admits the reality show is on the bubble but says it still isn’t sure whether the show will return for season four. Meanwhile, Martha, with two-year deals, is returning and NBC U says Megan Mullally has been sold in more than 50% of the country.King World’s Rachael Ray has already surpassed 85% of the U.S. Smaller market stations are still waiting to get a look at the Harpo-backed show, which is seen as the most competitive offering this year.

With Tribune on board, Sony has given a firm go for a talk show from author Greg Behrendt, and many groups in non-Tribune markets report picking it up. Sony’s Maria Lopez is cleared in more than 90% of the country, and Twentieth’s Christina’s Court is also moving forward. A court show project at Paramount is said to be dead due to station concerns about it having a jury format rather than a celebrity judge.