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Talking up Ananda

It has been slow going for all the new syndicated strips, but that's not dampening King World's enthusiasm for Ananda, which debuts today.

"We don't expect to come shooting out of the gate," says Roger King, the distributor's chief, but he believes the talk show has "a better chance" of grabbing viewers than some, including the struggling Iyanla.

Headliner Ananda Lewis has "a real sparkle to her," he says, noting that she has already built a TV following with gigs on MTV and BET.

There has been talk that today's soft ad market could shorten the season for many new syndicated shows. Traditionally low ratings complicated by weaker-than-normal ad dollars make it hard for studios to justify the high start-up production costs.

Still, even if Ananda
isn't a hit at first, King promises "she will be on the air for 52 weeks. I give you my word."

As for the advertisers, he acknowledges that "it hasn't been a great upfront" but insists he's nevertheless "pleased" with how Ananda
was received. "All of the buyers that have met her so far love her.

"The economy is bad, so I don't blame them for cutting their budgets," he adds. "It's been a very tough year on our advertising division, I can tell you that."

King World may be confident of Ananda's future, but, last week, Lewis was still worried whether daytime audiences would take to her. "Ananda, do Ananda!" King urged her in a phone conversation/pep talk.

It's fair to say audiences are ready for new talk offerings. Most of the veterans' season debuts last week posted numbers that were flat or below their time periods' year-ago figures.