Newer Shows Turn Buyers Into Conflict-Avoiders

Finding younger versions of Maury Povich and Jerry Springer? That’s not as easy as it may sometimes seem.

Neither CBS Television Distribution’s The Test, starring comedian Kirk Fox, nor NBCUniversal’s Trisha Goddard will return next season. The Test is in its rookie season, while Trisha is in season 2.

“Following the completion of production this season, [Trisha Goddard] will not be returning for season three,” said an NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution spokeswoman in a statement. “Trisha is a great talent and we recognize and are grateful for all of the hard work that Trisha and the production staff have put in to the show for the past two seasons.”

Meanwhile, CTD and Tribune’s test of Serch will not go forward. Tribune executives had hoped that radio DJ and hip-hop artist Serch would prove to be a new talk voice, but no other broadcast buyers agreed.

CTD had no comment about Serch or The Test.

Couldn’t Catch On

Neither Trisha nor The Test gained much traction in the ratings, with both shows averaging a 0.6 liveplus- same-day rating in the week ended March 23, according to Nielsen Media Research, and averaging similar ratings season to date. Goddard, who has hosted popular talk shows in both the U.K. and Australia, was spun out of NBCU’s Maury with hopes of attracting young viewers. The show was never cleared on strong stations, and failed to grow its audience.

Tribune tested Serch over three weeks in January, and the show averaged a 0.9 among households and a 0.5 among women 25-54. While Tribune would have liked to proceed with the program, the group couldn’t find broadcast partners to sign on to carry the show, according to sources. For a time, Tribune executives were said to be considering swapping Serch for The Test’s Fox, but ultimately neither project will go forward.

Stations are expected to replace those series with CTD’s new court entry, Hot Bench, or double-runs of established conflict talkers, such as Maury or Jerry. Entertainment Studios also continues to shop Justice With Judge Mablean and has its block of court shows to offer, while Trifecta has Judge Faith.

Perhaps it’s more surprising that the survival of The Test and Trisha remained a question, considering how low both shows’ ratings were. But in today’s tough local TV market, being profitable is more important than being first in the ratings, and that allows some low-rated but low-cost shows to remain on the air.

“It used to be really important to be the No. 1 station in the market in the ratings,” said Bill Carroll, VP, director of programming, Katz Television Group. “Now, it’s most important to be the most profitable. It’s a really different mindset.”

PIX and Chooses

With that in mind, Tribune is making some changes to its major-market station WPIX New York. On March 31, the station replaced a third run of NBCUniversal’s Maury with a second run of NBCU’s Steve Wilkos, which station management felt was a better news lead-in.

WPIX has had trouble finding the right show to air at 4 p.m., which is where the station tested Serch in January. It’s also where WPIX aired Twentieth’s Ricki Lake, which was pulled after one season.

WPIX also is moving CTD’s Arsenio Hall, the first-run late-night show that Tribune developed in partnership with CTD, to 11:30 p.m. and returning SPT’s Seinfeld to 11 p.m. The hope is that the move will provide the station’s late news with a better lead-out and Arsenio with a better lead-in. New York City has been a particularly tough market for Arsenio, and improving its ratings there could help the show’s national numbers. Like The Test, Arsenio is a program that Tribune developed in partnership with CTD.

“New York is a Seinfeld market,” said a Tribune exec.

The Test and Trisha join this season’s other canceled syndies: Disney/ABC’s Katie, Warner Bros.’ Bethenny, Twentieth’s Judge Alex and Trifecta’s America Now.

Shows that are cleared and ready to go for fall include NBCU’s Meredith Vieira, Warner Bros.’ The Real and Debmar-Mercury’s Celebrity Name Game. The new entry from John Tesh, Intelligence for Your Life, also is expected to go forward, although with only 65% of the country.

Strahan Adds GMA GIG

Michael Strahan was expected to add a third job to his résumé at presstime last week, taking a part-time gig on ABC’s hit morning show, Good Morning America.

Strahan will keep his day job at Disney/ ABC’s Live With Kelly and Michael, the syndicated show he is credited with rejuvenating. Live has been hitting its best numbers in seven years this season, and its ratings have been on the rise ever since Strahan officially joined in September 2012. Strahan confirmed that talks were ongoing during last Wednesday’s Live, assuring cohost Kelly Ripa that he “wasn’t going anywhere.”

Strahan also will remain a commentator on Fox NFL Sunday, for which he flies back and forth to Los Angeles from New York every weekend during football season.

Even with three jobs, Strahan will still have afternoons off. He’ll appear on GMA most days in the 7 a.m. hour and then head uptown to chat with Kelly Ripa on Live at 9 a.m.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for more than 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for The Global Entertainment Marketing Academy of Arts & Sciences (G.E.M.A.). 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.