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TribuneInvites Syndie Suitors to Talk Programming

Tribune Co. is looking to shake up its syndication strategy—and one possibility involves a move away from its daytime staples Jerry Springer and Maury Povich.

That idea was floated at a summit in early May, when top syndication executives from every company—CBS, Debmar-Mercury, Disney-ABC, NBC Universal, Program Partners, Sony, Twentieth and Warner Bros.—flew to Chicago for the day to talk programming with Tribune’s new executive team, led by COO Randy Michaels.

Sources who attended the meeting said Tribune is still formulating its strategy. But it appears the group is reappraising its reliance on Jerry and Maury. The two shows, both from NBC Universal, are double-run on many Tribune stations, but their ratings have been declining over the past couple of years and they attract mostly direct-response advertising.

Syndicators expect Tribune to move instead toward more-mainstream talk and court shows and local-oriented programming, both of which bring in more traditional advertisers. It’s also likely that Tribune will develop its own talent and shows to air on its stations.

Michaels is in the unique position of heading both the Tribune group of 23 TV stations and managing Local TV LLC’s soon-to-be acquired 17 stations under a joint management deal formed last December. The new coalition has yet to make a big programming acquisition since it was formed last December, but most expect that arrangement to allow Tribune to yield unprecedented buying power.

Says one syndication observer, “I can’t believe that if you have that kind of influence, you aren’t going to exercise it.”