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First runners running down clearances

Certain top fall 2001 first-run contenders are closing in on locking up all their clearances for trouble-free launches next season.
Some of the big guns, including Paramount Domestic Television Distribution's Caroline and Buena Vista Television's Iyanla have nabbed homes in New York, Los Angeles and/or Chicago, but not all three major markets together - which is every syndicators goal when firing up a new effort. The same goes for Studios USA' Crossing Over with John Edward and Pearson's Card Sharks.

In the case of Caroline, on Tuesday Paramount put a stop to rumors she wasn't going to launch at all. Its distribution president John Nogawski reported the show had cleared 70 markets, representing 60% of the U.S. That includes nice real estate on WNBC New York and KCAL Los Angeles - but at press time, no word on a home in Chicago. A `firm-go' statement wasn't included in the announcement, but Nogawski indicated as such, saying "Caroline has as good as any clearances as any other that what you will."

He pointed out he "was pacing" to nail down a Chicago station shortly.

Iyanla, the high-profile talker executive produced by Barbara Walters, scored on Monday WBBM Chicago. Iyanla also has WABC New York, but is still on the look-out for a Los Angeles station. Crossing Over just needs Los Angeles, but one source indicated, using an intriguing image, that a "verbal agreement is on the table." Card Sharks is on the hunt for New York property, but Pearson sources are confident that one will be found soon.

Perhaps the syndicators deserve kudos for securing anything this season, considering a couple of possible clearance spoilers. Reportedly, the Chris Craft stations are not taking on any new programming until their purchase by News Corp. is finalized, which is causing serious selling delays. But, apparently, the group can renew - Columbia TriStar Television Distribution said Tuesday that it got the go-ahead for a 10th season of Ricki Lake on Chris-Craft's WWOR New York and KCOP Los Angeles.

Others have blamed November's weird election for messing up syndicated viewing patterns, sending viewers to cable news alternatives. That left TV executives scrambling to first figure out which of their current shows should stay, holding off picking up any fresh offerings.

In other syndication developments, CTTD hit 88% clearance for a second season of court show Judge Hatchett. And its off-net run of The Steve Harvey Show (available in fall 2001) has been sold in 75% of the country, on stations including WNYW New York and KTTV Los Angeles. Its Screen Gems programming block has been sold in 50% of the U.S. for season three.

- Susanne Ault