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Krasnow Goes Searching for First-Run Hits

Stuart Krasnow has his work cut out for him. The new executive VP of creative affairs at Telepictures Productions has his sights set firmly on first-run syndication, which is currently as hard a business as there is in the television industry.

“First-run is always the end game,” says Krasnow, who was named to his new post last week. “It’s the holy grail, and it’s always going to be the goal of the company. Ellen, TMZ, Extra—these are all brands people have in their lives every single day. There are very few TV shows about which you can say that.”

Krasnow’s track record at developing and launching these sorts of long-running shows— perhaps most notably, Twentieth’s Forgive Or Forget With Mother Love, which enjoyed a three-season run—is what appealed to his new boss, Hilary Estey McLoughlin, Telepictures’ president.

“Stuart is widely known as someone who is wildly prolific, creative and universally liked,” says McLoughlin. “With experience producing reality series, docu-soaps and other formats, Stuart looks at things differently, and he’s integrating more innovation into the shows he’s been executing. We are always trying to reinvent what we are doing and the genres we produce.”

While launching a successful first-run show in syndication remains the goal, how companies get there has changed dramatically in the digital age, with so many opportunities to build a talent’s relationship with the audience before he or she ever takes the talk-show stage.

“You really have to look at it like spokes on a wheel,” says Krasnow, who cut his syndication teeth on such shows as King World’s The Martin Short Show. “You are putting talent on camera, looking at the digital space, looking at social media and, of course, working with TV stations to develop talent and shows. You have to do so many steps to win the big prize, to get a show on the air and get it to the level of an Ellen or a TMZ.”

For example, Telepictures, Warner Bros. Television’s first-run production arm, first launched TMZ as a website. Once it became successful online, the company launched the TV show. Similarly, Telepictures had Bethenny Frankel make appearances on Ellen for months before testing Frankel’s own show last summer to see if it had any legs. Bethenny has been sold to the Fox owned stations for a fall 2013 launch.

And while ratings tell an important part of the story, they don’t reveal everything. “When I look at longevity, it’s [also] about buzz,” says Krasnow, who also has produced several primetime reality shows, including Weakest Link, Average Joe and The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency. “When these shows are airing five days a week for years, those stars and shows are household names.”

The community and connectivity that daytime viewers experience is what marketers crave. That’s why social media has become so prevalent on daytime talk shows, with Anderson Cooper reading out tweets as they come in and Ricki Lake encouraging her viewers to gather on Facebook.

“Nighttime viewing is more of a passive thing—it’s a time when you want to put up your feet and just be entertained,” says Krasnow. “But in the middle of your day, you want a takeaway. You want to react to something.”

Perhaps that’s why TV’s best talk-show hosts—Oprah Winfrey, Regis Philbin and, today, Ellen DeGeneres—are people daytime viewers just want to hang out with.

“The job of daytime TV is almost to over-share,” says Krasnow. “Back in the day, Regis and Kathie Lee were always telling you stories of what happened in their lives since the last time they saw you. Shows today almost have a responsibility to show and share as much as possible.”

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Paige Albiniak
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.