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Down to the wire

As NATPE wound down to its last hours, your aching feet were thankful that the end was near. But syndicators were probably wishing for an extension on the conference. The survival of several shows, returning efforts looking for renewals and freshly minted series hunting for clearances, were still in question late Wednesday.

Roger King, the chief at King World, admits that the future of freshman Curtis Court
"is uncertain. We have some renewals but haven't cleared New York, Los Angeles and Chicago."

That iffiness isn't a huge concern for King. He says he is in the same boat as other syndicators attempting to get to "go." King blames a "wacky" November, which included an "election that wouldn't stop," for messing up stations' and studios' decision-making processes. With cable news outlets luring viewers from syndicated programming, stations couldn't determine by November sweeps whether their shows were up to speed. That meant many studios were unable to decide whether to green light further production.

"We'll look at the February ratings book to make a decision" about Curtis, King says. "We're uncertain, but we will be certain by the middle of March."

But the up-in-the-air factor looms large. Other shows affected are MGM's sophomore National Enquirer: Uncovered, a favorite of MGM boss Hank Cohen, and rookie Sex Wars.
An MGM studio source confirmed that both are not yet guaranteed another season, but they're trying hard. Columbia TriStar is also still trying for another year of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

All in all, King feels especially proud of having one sure thing in Ananda
and King boasts that the talk show has "the most incredible clearance list that I have ever had," many in daytime slots. How did it happen? "I won't comment on other shows, but the difficulty in selling the show is the difficulty of the show. Hit shows get cleared in all the major markets."

With 80% U.S. clearance, Ananda
is one of the few 2001 prospects to nail down all three top markets. Other shows that have done the same include NBC's The Other Half
(cleared on the trio of groups, NBC, Hearst-Argyle and Gannett) and Tribune Entertainment's Mutant X
(76% of the U.S., 98 markets) and Talk or Walk
(68% clearance, 76 markets), and as of late Wednesday, Crossing Over with John Edward, from Studios USA Domestic Television. That show (with 70% of the nation cleared) landed KCAL(TV) and is a "firm-go."

As for some of the other higher-profile companies, Paramount Domestic Television's Caroline
is up to 70%, representing 100 markets, but Chicago isn't among them. New York continues to elude Pearson's Card Sharks. Pearson isn't reporting clearances on action-hours Lean Angle
and Colosseum.
Universal's The Fifth Wheel
has landed 67% of the country, but needs to fill a hole in New York. Buena Vista is still searching for Los Angeles for Iyanla.