Station Execs Wary Of First-Run Reboot Wave

On the same day that Disney-ABC announced it will bring Tyra Banks back to syndication, CBS Television Distribution did a reversal —with the help of many TV stations— and canceled Arsenio Hall.

The timing was not lost on station buyers. “I’m equal parts embarrassed to be in this business and in love with our competitors for doing these things,” says one station programmer who requested anonymity. “I think in a lot of these companies you’ve got people doing stuff that’s based on old ideas and not on taking risks.”

Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Productions produced The Tyra Banks Show from 2005-10, when it was canceled due to low ratings. Earlier this year, Disney-ABC hired Lisa Hackner as executive VP, daytime & syndicated programming. Hackner came to Disney-ABC after working for Telepictures for 10 years, where she helped develop Tyra Banks.

According to sources, the new version of this show will be a panel, like ABC’s The View or The Chew, and feature others yet to be named. What Banks’ new show will be remains to be seen since it’s not premiering until fall 2015.

There is, of course, a chance it will work. Other perennial TV hosts—including Ellen DeGeneres, Jon Stewart and Regis Philbin— have successfully moved from one format to another, even after a previous show failed. But syndication’s track record with bringing back former hosts is not strong, and station execs say they are tired of studios promoting certified pre-viewed stars and concepts that have failed in past, and trying to pass them off as shiny new models.

“I think most TV station executives were a little surprised and a little amused that we are once again going back to hosts from the past as opposed to trying to launch new people,” says Bill Carroll, VP, programming, Katz Television Group.

In 2011, Dick Robertson and Scott Carlin tried to revive The Rosie O’Donnell Show, formerly a huge hit in daytime syndication. The show eventually went to OWN, where it quickly fizzled out. Twentieth’s 2012 deadon- arrival revival of The Ricki Lake Show was canceled after one year. CTD’s reboot of Arsenio Hall last fall, in partnership with Tribune, initially seemed to work but it quickly fell off and settled at an unsustainable 0.7.

Queen Latifah previously starred in a syndicated talk show produced by Warner Bros. from 1999 to 2001. While Sony Pictures Television’s new version of The Queen Latifah Show was the only rookie to be renewed for a second season, it averaged a 1.2 live-plus-same-day household rating in the May sweeps, ranking second lowest among the talkers. Still, the show has shuffled its producer ranks for season two, and has held on to morning time periods on the CBS-owned stations.

More interesting to station groups is the deal done by Debmar-Mercury and Gannett announced last week. In that partnership, Debmar-Mercury will work closely with Gannett to develop shows with digital and interactive angles to be tested on Gannett’s large platform of TV stations.

Other station groups—including Meredith, Scripps, Raycom, Cox and Hearst—have been actively developing, testing and airing their own TV shows to see what works in their markets.

“It’s not like navigating the syndication marketplace even five years ago,” says a station buyer. “It’s different now.”

Paige Albiniak

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.