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Pauley Could Score Big in Syndie

NBC Enterprises is betting that Jane Pauley can work the same kind of magic in daytime that she once worked for The Today Show and Dateline NBC.

She's betting that and more with her new syndicated daytime project, The Jane Pauley Show.

"As I told Tom Brokaw when I left NBC, whatever I was going to do was going to have something to do with my own demographic. I want to have conversations with women my age, give or take 15 years. ... These are women I identify with ... women I'm interested in. I want to know what they want to do next ... yearning to make the rest of your life count, to answer those yearnings ... to find your authentic self."

It all sounds awfully personal, if not just a little convoluted, but Pauley seems to want a talk show to discover herself, too, and to help others do the same. She says a personality test she took really surprised her. When she saw the results of who she was supposed to be, "I'm afraid I didn't recognize her," but all of her friends and relatives did. "Getting used to the fact that I didn't have a clue who I was and everyone else [did] ... started me thinking in rather bold ways."

Then she met with NBC Enterprises chief Ed Wilson, and she says, "I left the room thinking I could do this. I want
to do this."

In three to four weeks, NBC Enterprises plans to start selling The Jane Pauley Show, slated for a fall 2004 debut. It hopes to get around $2 million a week in license fees, sources said and NBC Enterprises hopes that bringing one of NBC News' stars to early fringe will help it lock up slots on major network affiliates, even though the show has no guarantee of winning space on NBC's owned-and-operated stations. If Wilson is successful, Pauley could be butting heads against Oprah Winfrey in many markets.

"She could be a game-breaker," says Wilson "She is the one personality out there who has the ability to lead into news."

So far, Pauley has experienced nothing but quick success. She started as a broadcast journalist in 1972, working in her hometown of Indianapolis on WISH-TV. By 1975, she had landed in the nation's third-largest market and become the first woman to co-anchor a weeknight evening newscast on NBC owned-and-operated WMAQ-TV Chicago. A year later, she was called up to the network when she became co-host of The Today Show.
She was 26.

"I left WMAQ on a Friday night, and I was on The Today Show
with Tom Brokaw the following Monday morning," Pauley says. "I had never even conducted a live studio interview before."

Since then, she has become a fixture, first at Today
and then at Dateline NBC.

NBC Enterprises thinks the show could pair well with rookie powerhouse Dr. Phil, giving stations a strong pair of shows to lead into their early news.

"She will go from being fun and light to serious and topical, and the show will be driven by one of the most endearing, trusted talents in the business," Wilson says.

She thinks her appeal is that what you see is what you get. "One never knows how you are seen in the world. Most of us don't have the gift to see ourselves as others see us," she mused. "But, if you are in television, you have an idea, because they have focus groups. What I hear {in focus groups] is that my reputation was for authenticity. I could not have chosen a better word than that because that's what I want people to think, that's what I feel to be true. ... I've come to believe that I'm stepping off into the aspect of television that I was meant to do."

Says Jeff Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, "I don't think there's anyone in America and on television who exhibits more class and more quality and more sensitivity than Jane Pauley. I think she exudes compassion and intellect, and I think she will be a breath of fresh air for daytime."

Zucker and Pauley have their own connection. In 1988, Zucker, freshly graduated from Harvard, was working as a field researcher at NBC. He ended up working with Pauley at the Seoul Summer Olympics. She ended up making sure he got a full time job at Today, where he went on to become the executive producer and then far beyond.

"Whatever dollars and cents NBC has ever paid me," Pauley says, "I earned by that gesture."