Bigger & 'Better'
Homegrown show nears 40 markets
By Michael Malone -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/31/2008 8:00:00 PM
When Meredith Broadcasting's daytime syndicated show Better launched last September, it aired on nine Meredith stations and three more owned by Journal Broadcast. But as the new season kicks off Sept. 8, it has 39 station partners, including ones in major markets like Philadelphia and San Diego.
|SEE YOU IN SEPTEMBER|
|25 markets debut Meredith's syndicated 'Better' program next week, bringing the total to 39. The 'Better' rookies include:|
|Source: Meredith Broadcasting
|Salt Lake City||KIZZ||Miller|
Meredith is hardly content to stop at 39. “We have three to five more markets, including big ones, possibly in play for fall,” says Meredith Video Solutions Executive VP/General Manager Kieran Clarke, who mentions advanced talks with stations in New York.
Clarke, who launched Better as a local program at KPTV Portland, Ore., in 2007, recently stepped back from running the Portland duopoly to move to New York and focus on Meredith Video Solutions (MVS). He promises a better look for Better—what he calls “a national set” (the furniture was picked by folks at Meredith sibling Better Homes and Gardens) featuring new lighting and a new color scheme. Covering female-friendly topics such as fitness, relationships and travel, Better will also tap Meredith sisters for content; the venerable “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” column from Ladies Home Journal will be a recurring segment.
MVS is also producing a primetime special, called More for Less, to air on Meredith stations in September. It will offer suggestions on enhancing your health and happiness in a recession.
Better is a success story at a time when station managers repeatedly express disappointment with syndicated fare, and increasingly opt for new newscasts in favor of purchased programming. Partner stations like that it can be tailored to the local market, and that it offers ample opportunity for advertiser tie-ins. Each hour-long show offers stations two four-minute segments to use as their own. That makes it a good fit for LIN's MyNetworkTV outlet WNDY Indianapolis, which President/General Manager Jeff White sees as the more Indy-centric half of the WISH/WNDY duopoly. He'll run it at 1 p.m.
“We'll use our noon news to talk it up,” White says. “I really like the idea of having the opportunity to have some local influence in there.”
Station managers see those windows as plum opportunities to pull in advertisers. White has a plastic surgeon on board for an upcoming episode. WPRI Providence President/General Manager Jay Howell, who also manages the Fox affiliate WNAC, is signing up interior decorators for a design-themed installment. “It's a chance to work with advertisers in ways other than 30-second commercials,” he says. “This allows them to go deeper in terms of what they have to offer.”
To be sure, Better's product integration model is uncharted territory to some, and general managers say some advertisers are taking a wait-and-see approach. “It's a whole new concept,” White says, “and advertisers have to get used to it.”
The show will also need time to connect with viewers, who are much more familiar with daytime hosts like Rachael Ray and Ellen DeGeneres than Better hosts Audra Lowe and Kimberly Maus. KSWB San Diego VP/General Manager Ray Schonbak, who debuted Better when the Tribune station switched from a CW to a Fox affiliate Aug. 1, says the program is doing a modest number, but he's confident a substantial audience will warm to Better's production values. “Meredith has done a great job with the show's quality,” he says.
As Clarke immerses himself in spreading Better beyond 25% of U.S. households, he's giving thought to Meredith's next national project. He says the “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” segments could be their own show and thinks KVVU Las Vegas's More program—which shares its name with a Meredith magazine aimed at mature women—could have the legs to march across the country the way Better has.
As Clarke puts it: “I'd be surprised if the other Meredith stations did not roll out their own versions.”
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