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Program Partners Creates Options for Stations

With low-rated game show Merv Griffin’s Crosswords going into production hiatus until at least the start of next year, Program Partners is offering three choices to TV stations that had already cleared the show for a second season.

In an initiative the company is calling “Daytime Plus,” stations can air repurposed, “best-of” episodes of Crosswords out of the 225 that were shot; they can air Canadian reality program Style by Jury, for which Program Partners owns the rights to 165 episodes; or they can air pop-culture game show Inside the Box, of which Program Partners owns 195 episodes.

Program Partners is also offering stations a four-minute, 30-second local to 2:30 national barter split, including one full two-minute block to run inside the program, which gives stations an additional one minute of inventory in each half-hour program. A typical barter split is 3:30-3:30.

“TV stations will be the first to tell you they are suffering in daytime right now,” said Ritch Colbert, principal of Program Partners. “This gives station one more opportunity to meet their year-end sales goals.”

Crosswords had been cleared in about 80% of the country for season two, Colbert added, so those stations will need to make programming decisions by this fall.

Program Partners and its production partners -- Merv Griffin Entertainment and the William Morris Agency -- decided over the past week to halt production because the costs were outweighing the returns. Meanwhile, Program Partners is bringing the already-produced Style by Jury and Inside the Box to the overall station market immediately.

National advertisers that buy into Daytime Plus will see their advertisements cleared in all three shows. If Crosswords and Style by Jury are cleared in a single market, for example, both stations will run the same national advertising block, even if the shows run head-to-head. That allows advertisers to cume their ratings, improving viewership.

All three shows offer a broadband component that stations can integrate into their Web sites, giving them further inventory to sell.

Said Colbert: “Broadband is a rapid growth area for TV stations. We are providing exclusive broadband content as a way to capture more of those broadband dollars, which will help to mitigate the downturn of CPMs [cost per thousand homes] in daytime.”