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Strategic Battle for Ali & Jack Time Slot

There are literally thousands of time periods on TV stations across the country, but the number of slots that can launch a first-run syndicated show to decent ratings is limited.

With vertical integration, the best of those usually go to the syndicator that produces shows for the station group. For example, Buena Vista's The Tony Danza Show
is cleared on ABC's owned stations; both syndicator and station group are owned by Disney. And NBC Enterprises' The Jane Pauley Show
is cleared on the NBC owned-and-operated stations.

As a result, syndicators really fight it out over the few remaining plum slots.

With King World's Living It Up! With Ali & Jack
turning in low ratings, syndicators see an opportunity to grab the time slot from CBS owned-and-operated stations that carry the show.

The slot, held by King World's Martha Stewart Living
before the show's host faced legal problems, is now by contract home to Ali & Jack
for this year and next. Executives from King World and the CBS owned stations—both of which are owned by Viacom—have no plans to pull the show, both say, even though it has been hovering around a 1.0 national household rating since its launch in September.

In the past two weeks, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Television have sold programming to the station group, which runs both CBS and UPN stations in eight markets and owns a total of 39 stations.

Last week, the Viacom stations picked up The Larry Elder Show
from Warner Bros., and the prior week the group acquired Pat Croce: Moving In
and Life & Style
from Sony. Elder is the former host of Moral Court;
Croce is a motivational speaker and former owner of the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team.

Viacom has given no indication of where it plans to schedule the shows, and all are likely to end up on Viacom's UPN stations this fall, sources say. But, if any of the three shows are successful on the smaller stations, they'll be in a better position to get bumped up to the larger, CBS stations.

That opportunity is important to Warner Bros. and Sony, the only two major syndicators not affiliated with a station group.

But holding on to real estate is important to every syndicator, and King World's Roger King isn't letting go of Living It Up!
without a fight. King World has two-year contracts with time-period locks, although the show has been downgraded in at least two markets.

So far, Viacom station-group executives do not seem eager to pull Living It Up!,
saying that building shows takes patience. King World recently hired a new producing team to run the show and hopes to see growth in its ratings after the February sweeps. If not, though, it could even try to put Martha Stewart Living
back in the time slot.

The Larry Elder Show, a one-hour multi-topic talk show, is cleared on all eight of Viacom's duopolies. The show also has been cleared on Viacom's CBS station in Chicago and its UPN stations in Atlanta; Norfolk, Va.; and New Orleans. Sony's Life & Style
is cleared in six of the top 10 markets and on The WB 100+ group, bringing its clearances to 60.

Sony also has cleared Moving In
with the Viacom station group, placing it on nine Viacom stations, and six of the top 10 markets. The show also has been sold to Tribune, Raycom and Scripps Howard stations.

None of the three shows has been cleared in New York and Chicago, and only Elder
has been cleared in Los Angeles. All three of the top three markets are essential to gaining the national clearance that advertisers expect.

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.