Station Groups Place BetsOn Next Fall’s Show Crop | @PaigeA

The fall TV season only started six weeks ago, but station groups already
are right in the middle of making deals for next year’s new syndicated shows.

So far, NBCUniversal’s Meredith Vieira
has a comfortable lead on the field with
clearances in 70% of the country, including
the station groups Hearst Television,
Sinclair, LIN Media, Cordillera Communications,
Gray Television and many others,
making that show a firm go for next fall.

But Vieira is not alone, as the future of several
other series also became clear in recent weeks.

TMZ Live Will Live On

Warner Bros.’ TMZ Live, which is sold to TV
stations on a cash-only basis, was renewed by the
Fox Owned Television Stations through the 2016-17
television season. While TMZ Live doesn’t depend
on being cleared nationally because of its cash-only
license fees, Fox’s long-term commitment makes
it likely that the show will eventually
spread across the entire country.

Fox also picked up panel talk-show The
from Warner Bros.; the show fared
well in a four-week test on six Fox owned
stations last summer. The Real features
a diverse panel of women, a group that
seems to appeal to younger female viewers in urban
markets. As a result of The Real’s pickup, Twentieth’s
Kris Jenner, which also aired in a six-week test last
summer on six Fox-owned stations, appears unlikely
to continue into national syndication.

While Warner Bros.’ Bethenny got off to a slower
ratings start than expected, the show’s recent performance
among daytime’s key demographic of women
25-54 is making it more likely that it will continue
into year two. Like Debmar-Mercury’s Wendy Williams
and now The Real, Bethenny’s appeal to younger
viewers in urban markets makes it a strong fit for
the Fox station group.

Whither Katie?

The season’s biggest outstanding question remains
unanswered: What will ABC Owned Stations do about
Disney/ABC’s Katie? Will Disney restructure Katie
Couric’s deal and allow stations to move the show
into earlier time periods to make it more economically
palatable, or will it end its run? While most observers
don’t expect Katie to go past a second season,
Disney has yet to make a clear decision. Speculation
in the marketplace is that the ABC stations will fill the
hour with second runs of Disney/ABC’s Who Wants
to be a Millionaire
(which this season added new host
Cedric the Entertainer) and CTD’s Jeopardy!

“The Katie time periods aren’t there anymore,”
says one industry insider. “Everyone of consequence
has bought over them,” with shows such as Vieira
and others.

Meanwhile, station groups are making their choices
among a trio of new true-crime shows: Debmar-
Mercury’s as-yet-unnamed panel show featuring
Star Jones, a partnership with the Scripps station
group; Warner Bros.’ True Crime Daily, which comes
from the producers of Extra and stars Chris Hansen,
formerly of NBC’s Dateline; and CBS Television
Distribution’s Crimesider.

Tribune is said to be considering airing a crime
block at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. on its stations. The group
has a hole in those important time periods after the
failures of Twentieth’s Ricki Lake and Warner Bros.’
Anderson Cooper, although it continues to turn in
solid daytime performances with conflict talk shows.

Tribune will test new conflict talker Serch beginning
in January.

Meanwhile, CTD is in the market with Hot Bench,
a court show created by Judge Judy Sheindlin and
her team and featuring New York State Supreme
Court judge Patricia DiMango, Beverly Hills criminal
attorney Larry Bakman and lawyer and legal
commentator Tanya Acker. Debmar-Mercury also
is making the rounds with Celebrity Name Game,
starring Craig Ferguson, which is intended as a companion
to the company’s red-hot Family Feud.

Syndication observers expect Celebrity Name
to be an easy sell, while Hot Bench, considering
that most court shows don’t fare well among younger
viewers, has not been an automatic pickup for stations.

The jury is still way out on whether this fall’s
other major new series — Sony Pictures Television’s
Queen Latifah, CTD’s Arsenio Hall and The Test
and MGM’s Paternity Court — will be picked up for
second seasons.

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.