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The Vegas Tote Board 2007

MyNetworkTV Lands A Punch—and Greg Meidel, too

A day after syndication veteran Greg Meidel was named president of MyNetworkTV (MNT), the News Corp.-owned network and its sister Fox Sports Network (FSN) unveiled an alliance with the International Fight League (IFL). Starting midyear, MNT will program 22 two-hour matches; FSN regional networks will air 22 one-hour bouts in late night. The deal includes pay-per-view events, video-on-demand product, and distribution of IFL digital media across various platforms.

The deal was cooking before Meidel arrived. But he gets there as the netlet charts a new course, with its all-telenovela strategy failing. Among options is one that could involve leasing out the 8-9 p.m. hour to producers.

Most recently, Meidel served as the president of programming for CBS Paramount Domestic Television, where he oversaw first-run programming in syndication, including Dr. Phil, Judge Judy and Entertainment Tonight. He has previously held top TV-executive roles at Twentieth Television and Universal Television Group.

'Celebrity Jury’ Pulled

Celebrity Jury, the court strip being prepped by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution (WBDTD), has had its trial postponed. Warner Bros., as expected, held the show back from NATPE when it couldn’t come to terms with the Fox station group on the right time periods or license fees. But the project may not be dead entirely and could make a comeback sometime later, say those familiar with the situation.

Second-year prospects for Warner Bros.’ low-rated talk show Dr. Keith Ablow are shaky. WBDTD President Ken Werner says the show will remain in production for the rest of this season. He didn’t mention a renewal.

'Rachael Ray’ Renewed Through 2010

Rachael Ray is already a household name in the kitchen, and newcomer The Rachael Ray Show will spend at least two more years being syndicated by CBS Television Distribution, which renewed it through the 2009-10 season. With 2006-07 a bad year for new talk shows, Ray is the exception.

Stations renewing include CBS-owned affiliates in Los Angeles; Chicago; San Francisco; Dallas-Fort Worth; Boston; Miami and Denver; and stations owned by other groups in Atlanta; Houston; Detroit; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Cleveland; Orlando, Fla.; Baltimore; and San Diego.

Program Partners, Merv Griffin To 'Play Crosswords’

Program Partners, a small distributor, is working with Merv Griffin on his new hi-def game show, and it previewed Let’s Play Crosswords at a pre-NATPE screening. Griffin’s agent, The William Morris Agency, is keeping an ownership stake.

Program Partners is hopeful that deals outside the top three markets are imminent. The strategy, a throwback to the old days of syndication, is to have Crosswords gain initial traction and secure full national clearances later. The show is being offered on an all-cash basis, but if Program Partners can also find a deal in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, it could change the terms to cash-plus-barter.

Until now, Program Partners has focused on Canadian drama imports. But one principal, Program Partners’ Ritch Colbert, has a history of selling The Joker’s Wild, Tic Tac Dough and Sale of the Century.

'TMZ’ Gets a Nod

Warner Bros. confirmed that Fox-owned stations have committed to TMZ magazine for fall. Under a multiyear, multiplatform licensing deal, the show has been cleared in the top three markets on Fox’s primary stations and duopolies. Double runs are part of the deal.

TMZ is designed be an irreverent, young-skewing magazine series, along the lines of the Website, co-owned by AOL and Telepictures. It’s also touted to appeal to males, unlike rival magazines. The Website has broken several big entertainment stories in the past year, including the Mel Gibson DUI arrest.

TMZ is from Warner Bros.-based Telepictures Prods. TMZ Managing Editor Harvey Levin and former Telepictures head Jim Paratore executive-produce.

Court Shows Clear, 'Family Guy’ Grows

Twentieth Television has renewed its three court shows and added 12 Sinclair stations to its Family Guy lineup for 2007-08.

Divorce Court has been renewed in 73% of the U.S., Cristina’s Court in 77% and Judge Alex in more than 70%. All have been sold to Twentieth sibling Fox O&Os.

Off-net sitcom Family Guy has been cleared on 12 Sinclair stations, increasing its coverage to 82% of the country for fall 2007. Tribune, Fox, Raycom, LIN and Acme stations have also signed on.

Bouncer Lands a Show

NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution will launch a talk show featuring Steve Wilkos, a former Chicago cop who built a following by keeping guests on The Jerry Springer Show from beating each other up. Wilkos will dole out advice and “his version of justice,” says the syndicator.

Tribune and Sinclair groups cleared it in more than half the country, including Tribune stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. NBCU sees it as a bridge between Springer and Maury. Says a spokesman, “It’s not a circus.” Of course not.