Eye, Aye for ET Clone

Seven top CBS stations are making room in prime time access for Paramount's The Insider,
all but assuring the launch of the planned Entertainment Tonight
spin-off in fall 2004.

It's a real insider deal, too: Paramount and the CBS stations have the same corporate parent, Viacom. But nobody twisted his arm, says Fred Reynolds, president of the Viacom station group, which includes CBS and UPN stations. "In these seven markets, The Insider
looks like a great new program that we think we can do well with," Reynolds says. "The Insider
is a little bit safer bet in some ways.

Just Like Dr. Phil

"For example, we knew when we got Dr. Phil, which we got in 10 markets, that he was already a proven quantity because he had been on Oprah
on Tuesdays for the past several years. Dr. Phil
played out really well. It's the hottest new syndicated show. What I like about The Insider
is that it's now a segment inside Entertainment Tonight
and ET
is just an awesome program."

No host has yet been selected for the show, but, with the seven CBS stations on board, Paramount now has the confidence to fully develop its concept for a splashy launch in fall 2004. Much like it did with Dr. Phil, Paramount has a long lead-time—19 months —to carefully select talent, executives and staff as well as put together a promotional and marketing campaign.

The seven CBS stations are in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth and Detroit.

Other stations from McGraw-Hill, Hubbard Broadcasting, Midwest Television, Capitol Broadcasting and Sinclair also have signed up for the show. Total clearance as of last Friday: 40%.

"This show is going to be the next great opportunity in access," said John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television. "From a landscape point-of-view, this will be the last show to get an access slot for years to come."

ET companion

Paramount intends The Insider
to air in the other half of the prime time access hour as a companion to Entertainment Tonight. Time in access in major markets where network-owned station rule is rare. The ABC O&Os are committed to run King World's Wheel of Fortune
and Jeopardy
during the hour, while the NBC O&Os air NBC's Access Hollywood
and Extra, which NBC co-owns with Warner Bros. The Fox O&Os long have run sitcoms in the space.

The Insider, said Nogawski, will provide juicy tidbits everyone wants to know, such as where Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are going to get married or who's the next celebrity couple to call it quits.

While Entertainment Tonight
will continue to offer the entertainment news of the day, The Insider
will go behind-the-scenes and in-depth. The Insider
also will have a focus that is broader than Hollywood stars and includes international and political celebrities.

Squares stays

Most of the CBS stations now run Hollywood Squares
alongside Entertainment Tonight
in access. Reynolds maintains that the Insider
deal does not mean the end of Squares
on the CBS stations. He said his stations have been impressed with Squares'
improved performance since King World revamped the show last fall. "We could have both shows on the schedule [by fall 2004]," Reynolds said. "We want the best shows we can have, and we want to give the audience what they want to see."

Said King World's Arthur Sando, "Hollywood Squares
has been a television favorite for decades. There's no reason to believe that, if one station doesn't want it, another one won't pick it up, and we intend to be out selling it,"

King World, which is also owned by Viacom, has a contract in place with CBS to carry Hollywood Squares
through the 2003-04 season, although that contract does not dictate the time period when the show must air.

Paige Albiniak

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.