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Strong chain

Three top-market CBS O&O stations, including WCBS-TV New York, have snapped up NBC Enterprises' syndicated version of Weakest Link.

The strip, slated for afternoon time slots on those stations, is set to roll out the second week of January 2002. WCBS-TV apparently agreed to pay $75,000 per week in license fees, say sources. That's a fair price for an hour-long show that hasn't yet decided how it will be pared down to a half-hour format, or located a host, insiders continue.

The stations, which also include KPIX-TV San Francisco and WJZ-TV Baltimore, likely latched on because many of them are on the hunt for a good afternoon news lead-in after recent failures such as The Howie Mandel Show
and Dr. Laura.

You'd think the NBC-owned outlet in New York or the Hearst-Argyle station in Baltimore would have grabbed the Weakest Link
strip, considering NBC Enterprises' recently struck distribution arrangement with that station group and Gannett.

But because Hearst Argyle's WBAL-TV Baltimore runs the still-formidable Oprah
at 4 p.m., the attractive news lead-in slot Weakest Link
is expected to snag on WJZ-TV.

Other Hearst Argyle stations may hunger for Weakest Link,
and there is speculation that between five and 10 stations in the group eventually will land the show in early-fringe spots. The word is that executives from NBC's camp are refusing daytime clearances, wanting nothing less than afternoon and access for Weakest Link.

With the Weakest Link
floodgates open, look for a lot of action out of Buena Vista and Columbia TriStar, currently out shopping similarly high-profile strips Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
and $100,000 Pyramid.

"If you're Pyramid, you want to follow Link. You want to be that other half-hour," explains a station group source. "Maybe Millionaire
can be linked with Weakest Link—no pun intended."

Insiders are pointing to CBS O&Os as big players for Millionaire, too.