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'Queen' Set for Morning Rule

The sale of Queen Latifah to the CBS Television Stations looks like a win for Sony, and a loss for a few CBS Television Distribution shows, including The Doctors, Jeff Probst and the talk show that CTD has in development with Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis.

Meanwhile, last week’s cancellation of Warner Bros.’ Anderson Live! means there’s more room for other shows to find shelf space next fall, specifically Warner Bros.’ own Bethenny as well as Latifah. Latifah already is expected to take the 9 a.m. slot on CBS’ KYW Philadelphia, where Anderson Live! currently airs. CBS’ Latifah pickup also puts the future of CTD’s Flay and de Laurentiis project in question, with the CBS station group full up for fall.

Latifah will air on CBS’ main stations in 12 markets— including WCBS New York, KCBS Los Angeles, WBBM Chicago, KYW Philadelphia, KTVT Dallas, KPIX San Francisco, WBZ Boston, WWJ Detroit, WCCO Minneapolis, WFOR Miami, KCNC Denver and KOVR Sacramento—and on its CW-affiliated stations in four markets: WUPA Atlanta, KSTW Seattle, WTOG Tampa and KDKA Pittsburgh, according to a CBS spokesman.

CBS has duopolies in many of those markets, including No. 1 market New York, where it acquired WLNY last December. That one purchase has changed the dynamics of domestic TV distribution, allowing CBS to serve as a spoiler in deals that once were up to Fox and Tribune to determine because they were the only station groups with room for new shows. Now that CBS owns WLNY, it has plenty of program space.

Those duopolies give CBS flexibility and space, and that’s allowing the group to become aggressive in acquiring product.

In Chicago, where CBS does not have a duopoly, the group has worked with Weigel’s WCIU on two deals: acquiring Mike & Molly and 2 Broke Girls from Warner Bros. last summer and now acquiring Queen Latifah from Sony. In the Windy City, WBBM and WCIU will share Latifah, in addition to the secondary run of CTD’s top talker, Dr. Phil, which WCIU already airs. WCIU's acquisition of 2 Broke Girls and Mike & Molly for an exclusive Chicago run helped CBS win those shows in a group deal.

“We bring more money and market share to the deal,” says Neal Sabin, president of content and networks for Weigel Broadcasting. “In today’s media world, you have to look for your opportunities and sometimes your opportunities lie with competitors.”

In the case of Latifah, working with Weigel means CBS was able to offer Sony more money and barter time for the show in Chicago. The NBC Owned Station Group also was said to have been in the bidding for Latifah but was only offering four or five stations, not its entire group, making the CBS deal more appealing.

To some extent, syndication is a zero-sum game, so if someone wins, someone else loses. CTD’s The Doctors, the lowest-rated first-run show on many CBS stations, appears to be headed over to CBS’ lower-rated duopoly stations, which will mean even lower ratings. The Doctors currently averages a 1.4 household rating, sitting in the middle-to-low-end of the talk pack.

The math works like this: WCBS New York airs The Doctors at 9 a.m., and CTD’s Dr. Phil and Judge Judy at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively. The rest of the day is filled with The Early Show, local news, CBS’ The Price is Right and Let’s Make a Deal in time slots expected to remain in the network’s control, and two half-hour soap operas, The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful.

As a result, the only time slot available on WCBS is The Doctors’ current 9 a.m. slot. Moving The Doctors over to WLNY will allow the station to slot Latifah, while keeping intact Dr. Phil and Judge Judy, two of syndication’s highest-rated shows.

WBBM Chicago is expected to bump CTD’s rookie talk show, Jeff Probst, off the air next fall in favor of Latifah. Probst has gotten off to a slow start, averaging a 0.7 in the national ratings. Chicago is one of the few markets where the show airs on a CBS-owned station. The NBC Owned Station Group serves as that show’s launch group, and NBC reportedly signed a two-deal for Probst, which may keep it on the air despite its ratings.

A CTD spokesperson declined to comment, but pointed out that The Doctors is not expected to be cancelled any time soon. It has many international deals in place, and more importantly, it’s renewed on stations through the 2013-14 TV season.

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