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TMZ Show Cleared in 80% of the U.S.

Clearance levels for a daily series named TMZ, after the popular Time Warner-owned celebrity-gossip Website, have jumped from 45% to more than 80% of the country. That makes it a "go" for this fall.

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution (WBDTD) started selling Telepictures Prods.’ magazine show TMZ to stations at last month’s National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) conference.

Geared to younger men and women, unlike other, older-skewing, female-slanted magazine shows, TMZ has landed two-year, double-run deals in the 4 p.m.-midnight time period on stations belonging to Sinclair, Tribune, Cox, McGraw-Hill, LIN, Clear Channel, Media General, Meredith, Cascade, ACME, Raycom and Landmark. Fox stations constituted the initial launch group.

Along with the strong time periods, the syndicator is believed to have gotten reasonably good license fees for the magazine program, which at the high end can cost north of $1 million per week to produce and distribute.

But if TMZ follows the same course as others in the genre, Warner Bros. will likely see red ink in the early years, despite controlling three of 14 commercial spots per half-hour episode.

The company is gambling on the series’ attracting strong ratings, which could lead to a hugely profitable franchise through higher station license fees in future renewal deals and the negotiation of higher national barter advertising rates.

The late sales launch for the high-
profile TMZ came after prolonged negotiations with the Fox station group, which was looking for news-friendly programming. Warner Bros. designed the project specifically for the Fox stations, since the rival Tribune stations were out of the picture after acquiring Two and a Half Men and Family Guy reruns.

Warner Bros. also sought to create a show that could enhance stations’ Web presence and play well on Fox, CW and MyNetworkTV affiliates. Another target is any of the Big Four broadcast-network affiliates seeking to boost their third-ranked newscasts.

To appeal to stations’ desire for younger demos, Warner Bros. describes TMZ as having "fast-paced" video segments, breaking celebrity news and recurring behind-the-scenes features. Buyers will also gain access to an exclusive module crafted for their Websites, which can also be used as a free local newsfeed.

WBDTD President Ken Werner says the studio has received positive feedback on the project, which he calls "an integrated, multiplatform content and marketing play that combines the strengths of stations with the Internet."