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Sinclair, Tornante Form Programming Partnership

Sinclair Broadcast Group is partnering with Michael Eisner’s Tornante to acquire, develop, produce and distribute first-run programming, the companies said Monday.

The new venture — Tornante-Sinclair LLC — will be 50% owned by Tornante and 50% owned by Sinclair. Tornante Television Co-President Lauren Corrao will work in tandem with a team from Sinclair, led by Sinclair co-COO Steven Pruett and Arthur Hasson. Hassan oversees Sinclair Original Programming, and that unit will work closely with Tornante in this venture.

“We’re now a company that is large enough to own content and to develop our future in the content business,” said Pruett. “We are open to developing with anyone who has a project that makes sense.”

"I think the association with a Hollywood-based company gives Sinclair a little more comfort in going into this original programming venture," Corrao. "We like to look at things a little bit differently than some of the major players have. We're planning to put new twists on traditional syndicated programming and hopefully will bring something fresh to the marketplace."

One area Tornante plans to look into is comedy, where there "seems to be a lot of demand," said Corrao, who has worked at Comedy Central and MTV. "We’ll be looking at all the traditional formats and then considering putting a comedic skew on some of them: comedy, comedy talk, comedy game, all of those things are opportunities for us."

The demand for comedy has been ramped up for two reasons: first, the lack of off-net sitcoms, since so few comedies are succeeding -- or even being launched -- on broadcast prime, and second, the recent success of shows such as Family Feud and Steve Harvey, both of which put a comedic spin on a traditional format. 

Tornante already has one show in syndication --  court show Judge Faith, which is distributed by Trifecta Entertainment and airs on more than 35 Sinclair stations. Tornante also produces adult animated series BoJack Horseman for Netflix.

With station groups now consolidated into large companies, many of them are forming partnerships to produce new shows, especially as studios’ interest in investing in syndicated shows has waned. This fall, only three new shows — Disney-ABC’s FABLife, Warner Bros.’ Crime Watch Daily and NBCUniversal’s Crazy Talk — will debut in national syndication.

That said, studios and station groups are already looking ahead to 2016, with Dr. Phil and his son, Jay McGraw last week announcing a partnership to develop a new series with the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

Groups like Sinclair, that have CW and MyNet duopoly stations in many markets, are hungry for shows to fill time slots.

“We have to ensure that we have supply from both the traditional vendors as well as our own vision to fill slots as we look out a little further and make sure we have a robust supply of programming,” said Pruett.

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.