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Springer Re-ups

Making official a story reported in Monday's B&C, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution said Monday it has signed Jerry Springer to a new “multi­year” contract, putting an end to speculation that he might leave his raucous talk show soon to make a run for elective office in Ohio, where he was once Cincinnati’s mayor.

In securing a new long-term deal, NBC U was able to renew The Jerry Springer Show for 2006-07 in more than 85% of the country. Richard Dominick, credited with creating Jerry’s format, also remains as executive producer.

The 61-year-old Springer, who takes credit for his show as the genesis of outrageous programs now commonplace on daytime and prime time TV, is expected to make tens of millions of dollars over the life of his new contract.

The onetime TV newscaster says he was able to satisfy his political ambitions—after seriously contemplating a Senate run in Ohio a few years ago—with his nationally syndicated, liberal radio talk show. The three-hour daily program, which Springer owns, began on a couple of stations last year and today is heard in 53 markets, mostly those affiliated with Air America but some belonging to Clear Channel.

“I lead into Al Franken in half the country and Rush Limbaugh in the other half,” quips Springer, who is noncommittal when asked if he may run for political office again sometime down the road.

The television show, now in its 15th season, has been renewed in 45 of the top 50 markets, including stations from Tribune, Sinclair, Fox, Granite, Hearst-Argyle, Raycom, Emmis, LIN and Clear Channel, according to Domestic Distribution President Barry Wallach.

Sixteen Tribune Broadcasting stations have signed on for another year, including WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles, WPHL Philadelphia and KDAF Dallas. Sinclair Broadcasting has renewed the show in 27 markets, including WPGH Pittsburgh, WLFL Raleigh, N.C., WZTV Nashville, Tenn., and WTTE Columbus, Ohio.

Season-to-date through Jan. 1, Springer’s national household ratings have held steady year-to-year at a 2.0. But its core women 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54 demos have climbed 9% from 1.1 to 1.2. While those aren’t the stellar numbers Springer attracted during its fist-flying, chair-crashing heyday of the late ’90s, the Rodney Dangerfield of talk shows is performing respectably by today’s daytime standards.

Sinclair VP of Group Programming and Promotion Bill Butler says his group has had “great success” with Springer over the past four seasons, using it as a replacement on many of its stations that carried the now-defunct Fox Kids Network.

With Sinclair’s WB affiliates switching this month from kid to adult fare in the afternoons, he believes Springer will have “big value” by boosting the new off-network sitcoms and dramas, which in turn lead into the stations’ high-margin post-5 p.m. programming.

Butler would like to see NBC U develop a companion strip to replace Springer or Maury, also renewed for next season, when they do exit. But an NBC U spokesman says the company has “no plans now for any successors” for Jerry and Maury, which the company inherited in the May 2004 merger with Universal.

The Tribune stations rely heavily on Jerry and Maury. Having long sought strong companion programming for them, Tribune is placing its bet for next season on comedian-turned-relationship-expert Greg Behrendt, who will front a show Tribune is producing with Sony.