Will Deal Launch in Syndication?

Deal or No Deal

, one of this year’s most anticipated first-run candidates, could launch in syndication during the 2008-09 season but will bypass this week’s National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) confab, according to those close to the talks.

Buzz continued to persist last week that syndicator NBC Universal might drop a bombshell by announcing Deal at NATPE, even after word leaked that it was in talks with Tribune about rolling out a fall talk show with Jerry Springer bodyguard Steve Wilkos (Broadcastingcable.com, 1/10).

While NBCU has remained quiet about its intentions, people familiar with the discussions say NBC and Deal producer Endemol USA appear reluctant to over-expose the hit game show as early as this fall, since it already runs multiple times per week on the network.

The principals are all committed to an eventual syndication launch in the next year or two but think this fall is too early. Although a syndicated Deal could probably get plenty of takers immediately, given a lack of other high-profile first-run projects energizing the market this year, the most important consideration is "preserving the asset in the right way," one person says.

Whenever the game show’s network ratings cool a bit and it gets the greenlight for syndication—hopefully avoiding the plunge that ABC’s Who Wants To Be a Millionaire took before going on to achieve syndication success years later—the next big decision will hinge on whether to bring it out in fall or midseason.

The downside to a fall launch, insiders say, would be marketing the new first-run version just as NBC is bringing back the network game from its summer rest.

Conversely, a midseason first-run premiere could cause some to wonder why Deal wasn’t important enough to bring out in the fall.