What the Top 25 want
Cautious, cynical buyers will be a tough sell for syndicators
By Kim McAvoy -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/20/2002 7:00:00 PM
It certainly won't be a seller's market at NATPE this week. Those in the syndication business are likely to encounter a reluctant group of buyers in Las Vegas. Broadcasters appear unwilling to make any major commitments to new first-run product, and some are balking at the idea of paying more for renewals.
Groups like NBC TV Stations are "looking for a deal that makes sense," says Senior Vice President of Programming Steve Doerr. "In our view, the days of the automatic license-fee increase are long gone."
Furthermore, spending cash for daytime product is becoming increasingly unpopular, especially when daytime viewing remains flat and the TV business is off. As one TV executive put it: "We are not doing cash renewals on daytime product."
Liberty Corp. says it is now doing barter deals only in daytime and is "staying away" from multi-year deals for untested product.
Clearly, broadcasters aren't eager to take any chances with new programs. "We're in a live-with-what-we-have mode right now," says Frank Cicha, vice president of programming for the Fox O&Os.
Those are just some of the views expressed by executives from the nation's Top 25 TV-station groups surveyed on the eve of NATPE. There is overwhelming concern about the future of syndicated TV and the obvious lack of hits.
"Nothing ever seems to work in the talk genre. We've thrown everybody at the viewers including cast stars, kid stars, washed-up stars, MTV [personalities]. We've covered the gamut, and nothing seems to work," says Meredith Broadcasting President Kevin O'Brien.
There has been some pre-NATPE activity. Broadcasters seemed willing to go with shows perceived to have a "track record," such as Dr. Phil, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Weakest Link.
Nonetheless, there were repeated calls for something "different and fresh"—not a new lament from general managers and program buyers.
On the pages that follow, we've tracked the top 25 station groups, ranked by their 2000 revenue, to see what they like and what they'll avoid. Put it all together and you'll see which syndicators will find Las Vegas a little sunnier this week.
|Rank||Owner||No. of stations||No. of market|
|1||Fox (News Corp.)||42||28|
|1||Fox (News Corp.)|
|Number of stations: 42|
|Number of markets: 28|
Fox TV stations aren't eager to make many new first-run program purchases. "We're in a live-with-what-we-have-mode right now," says Frank Cicha, vice president of programming for the Fox owned-and-operated stations.
There's at least one exception. The Rob Nelson Show (distributed by co-owned Twentieth Television) has been cleared in all the Fox markets. It will be a major component for many daytime schedules and possibly early fringe. Fox also will look at renewals for some daytime offerings, including Maury, Jerry Springer, Jenny Jones and Ricki Lake.
Fox adjusted its daytime schedule after Power of Attorney was canceled and the network eliminated the kids block. Indeed, the group filled those programming holes with product it already owned. In some cases, stations are airing Cops or double runs of 3rd RockFrom the Sun and Maury. Fox could still have a need for product later this year depending on how those programs fare.
To remain competitive in access and late fringe, Fox invested in new off-net offerings, including That '70s Show, Will & Grace and Dharma & Greg. "There's going to be enough off-net product to fortify our sitcom blocks for a little while," says Cicha.
He says Judge Judy, Joe Brown and Divorce Court have performed well in early fringe for some stations. And he predicts viewers will see more double runs of Texas Justice. Fox also completed renewals for weekend action series Stargate SG-1.
|2||Viacom (includes former CBS and Paramount stations)|
|Number of stations: 41|
|Number of markets: 28|
At Viacom, CBS stations have high hopes for Dr. Phil, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Weakest Link. "We feel like we got the three best shows that are being offered to affiliates right now," says Tom Zappala, senior vice president of programming for the Viacom Television Stations Group. "Millionaire and Weakest Link have proven network tracks. We feel they are a good match for us."
All three shows are aimed primarily at early fringe this fall (Weakest Link debuted this month). Stations will air either one of the shows or a mix of them. At KCNC-TV Denver, Dr. Phil will replace Rosie, however. WCBS-TV New York and WBZ-TV Boston will run all three programs. (Weakest Link is also carried on two of Viacom's UPN stations, in Atlanta and Sacramento.)
Although the CBS side of the group is trying out a new early-fringe lineup, access remains intact with Entertainment Tonight and Hollywood Squares.
Program purchases won't be made for Viacom's UPN stations until the November ratings are reviewed, says Zappala. For UPN, the key is to find those first-run offerings that are "new and different," he says.
In access and early fringe, off-net shows -such as Everybody Loves Raymond, Just Shoot Me, Frasier and Friends -remain an essential part of many UPN stations' syndication lineups. That '70s Show and The Hughleys will be added this fall.
|Number of stations: 36|
|Number of markets: 23|
"We're looking for something innovative, different and fresh," says Senior Vice President Steve Doerr. Indeed, he believes daytime-TV offerings are due for a change. "I just don't think 'Send My Wild Teen to Boot Camp' or a judge yelling at people over a $75 muffler dispute are the future."
Furthermore, NBC TV stations are "looking for a deal that makes sense. In our view, the days of the automatic license- fee increase are long gone," says Doerr.
The group has signed off on some new product. Most NBC stations will carry The John Walsh Show, distributed by NBC Enterprises. "We think, if anybody can turn his franchise into a talk show, he's the guy." It's undecided where the show will play. NBC Enterprises' B.A.I.T. is also being considered by the station group.
NBC stations have cleared Dr. Phil in Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington. It will likely replace Rosie in some markets. However, Caroline Rhea and Life Moments are other possibilities, according to Doerr. Pyramid has been picked up for KNSD(TV) San Diego. And Weakest Link is airing on WMAQ-TV Chicago and KNBC(TV) Los Angeles.
|Number of stations: 10|
|Number of markets: 10|
Most ABC-owned stations aren't likely to have much demand for new syndicated product. WABC-TV New York is apt to make only minor adjustments to its schedule, according to Director of Programming Art Moore. "The only thing we need to do is replace Rosie," he says, adding that the station is looking for a substitute but has not signed off on anything.
Nor has WABC-TV cleared The Wayne Brady Show. "It could be a possibility," Moore says, adding that he hasn't seen it and that no decisions have been made. "It's out there, but it's out there with a lot of other things."
In daytime, viewers can see Live With Regis and Kelly, Rosie and The View. Oprah, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy also air on the station. ER runs back-to-back on Saturday nights.
WLS-TV Chicago, another ABC station, also has strong performers. "We don't need much for Monday through Friday. We've got Oprah, The View, Inside Edition, Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune," says Program Director Fran Preston.
For weekends this fall, WLS-TV picked up Larry Sanders for late fringe, Preston says, and has acquired The WestWing for weekends in 2003. ABC Stations Group President Walter Liss declined to be interviewed.
|Number of stations: 23|
|Number of markets: 20|
The Tribune stations have picked up Beyond With James Van Praagh and SPQR for next fall (both distributed by sister company Tribune Entertainment). But the group is not likely to get behind other new product in a big way.
"Our focus right now is to renew or bring over as many shows that we know work on our stations rather than committing to new projects," says Vice President of Programming Marc Schacher. Besides, he says, "outside of Van Praagh, there aren't really a lot of other new projects to choose from."
Schacher declined to discuss Tribune's renewal deals. However, he did say that Maury, Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones, which comprise the core of the group's daytime lineup, "work for many of our stations." Beyond With James Van Praagh will be added to the group's daytime offerings.
Nor have there been major group deals for off-net sitcoms, a staple of Tribune's access and late-fringe programming. Some of the current offerings include Friends, EverybodyLoves Raymond and Seinfeld. Several stations, including WPIX(TV) New York and WGN-TV Chicago, will get Dharma & Greg this fall.
|Number of stations: 22|
|Number of markets: 19|
The daytime and early-fringe lineup at Gannett's WXIA-TV Atlanta will have a different look this fall. The station will make several adjustments by adding Dr. Phil, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Pyramid.
"With Rosie going out of production, we needed to make some changes. We like Dr. Phil; we like the tone of Dr. Phil. It fits well in this market," says Bob Walker, president and general manager at WXIA-TV Atlanta. The station will run Dr. Phil and Millionaire between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m., he says. Currently, WXIA-TV airs Rosie, Access Hollywood and Extra during those hours. The station is still evaluating where it will put Pyramid, he says.
Other new product may also appear on the schedule. A change is likely to occur between 10 a.m. and noon, although no decisions have been made, says Walker. People's Court and Montel are carried during that time period. Access programs Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy are a mainstay for WXIA-TV.
|Number of stations: 39|
|Number of markets: 26|
"I actually think this NATPE will be fairly active. We'll be there, we'll be doing some deals, " says Emerson Coleman, vice president of programming at Hearst-Argyle Television. Indeed, the group will be shopping hard for new product before and dur-ing NATPE, he says.
Despite deals for Dr. Phil in nine Hearst-Argyle markets and acquisition of Weakest Link by many of its stations, the group still has some syndication needs. Pyramid was purchased for several markets. Dr. Phil is slated for mornings or 3 p.m., and Weakest Link is primarily an early-fringe show, says Coleman.
He says the group is taking a look at Life Stories and Celebrity Justice and wants to check out The Rob Nelson Show and Good Day Live. Hearst-Argyle will definitely be on board for any distribution of NBC Enterprises' proposed talk show featuring John Walsh, of Fox's America's Most Wanted series. Hearst-Argyle, NBC owned-and-operated stations, Gannett Broadcasting and NBC Enterprises teamed up in 2000 to develop and distribute new daytime product.
The Other Half, a result of that partnership, has "been a good effort" and will continue airing in daytime on Hearst-Argyle stations, says Coleman. In access, Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, Entertainment Tonight and Hollywood Squares are expected to remain on the schedule.
|Number of stations: 62|
|Number of markets: 40|
Off-net product is a key component of Sinclair's syndication strategy. This fall, Dharma & Greg, Will & Grace and That '70s Show will air in access and late fringe.
The TV group will also try some first-run shows this fall, including Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,Beyond With James Van Praagh and Pyramid. Weakest Link is in a handful of Sinclair markets. Millionaire and Weakest Link are headed for access, and at least a dozen stations will carry James Van Praagh in a variety of time periods.
"We're in very good shape. We're very stable in our first-run needs and strongly reinforced in our sitcom needs," says Bill Butler, vice president, group programming and promotion.
Sinclair's sitcom programming already includes Friends, Frasier, King of the Hill, Everybody LovesRaymond and Just Shoot Me.
The station group, which is heavily invested in the court genre, has renewed People's Court and Judge Mathias. Among Sinclair's other court offerings are Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown and DivorceCourt.
The group is equally committed to the talk-show genre and airs a mix of Maury, Ricki Lake, Sally, Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones.
|Number of stations: 21|
|Number of markets: 16|
Belo's syndication shopping list is short this year. The group is primarily sticking with product it already owns, such as Oprah, Live With Regis and Kelly and Entertainment Tonight. "We have a couple of holes here and there, but we don't have a crying need for anything," says Dennis Williamson, senior vice president, Belo Television group. "There's nothing that we're heading to NATPE to look at. We're just going to go and see what's there."
While most of the group's focus has been on renewals, it did acquire Dr. Phil for its Seattle; Phoenix; Norfolk, Va.; Louisville, Ky.; Spokane, Wash.; and Boise, Idaho, markets. Dr. Phil will run in daytime, replacing either Sally or Rosie in some cases. Williamson is confident about Dr. Phil -sort of. "No one knows for sure," he says, "but I don't know what else I'd bet on."
Currently, Belo's daytime lineup in some markets includes Ananda. "We know what the households are in November, we'd like to see the demos [for Ananda]. But right now we're sticking with it."
|Number of stations: 14|
|Number of markets: 10|
Don't expect Cox to be a big player in the syndication market this year. With few time periods available, group deals have been out of the question. "We have not made any major purchases," says Bruce Baker, executive vice president, TV stations. Instead, Cox is making only minor acquisitions.
Dr. Phil will air on WSOC-TV Charlotte, N.C., in the mornings and in the afternoon on sister station WAXN(TV) Charlotte. Indeed, in markets like Orlando, Fla.; Reno, Nev.; San Francisco; and San Jose, Calif., where Cox operates duopolies, it usually has a greater need for product, explains Baker.
Newly rolled out series Life Moments and The Wayne Brady Show have a "different twist" and may be what Cox is looking for, Baker says. "As an industry," he adds, "we could always use stronger programming. We're still looking for product that will bring more viewers back to over-the-air TV stations."
|Number of stations: 38|
|Number of markets: 23|
Spanish-language network Univision generally does not buy U.S. syndicated programming. Nor is it expected to invest in syndicated product for its new network composed of the former USA station group.
|Number of stations: 16|
|Number of markets: 13|
Most of Young Broadcasting's syndication needs have been addressed with the purchase of Dr. Phil and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. The group plans to broadcast Dr. Phil in early fringe at its Lansing, Mich.; Green Bay, Wis.; and Rockford, Ill., stations. KRON-TV San Francisco (which became an independent station Jan. 1, when it lost its NBC affiliation) will run the show in prime time. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire has been picked up in five markets and will air in either access or early fringe.
"We're in good shape," although the group still has a few daytime programming holes to fill, says Executive Vice President Deb McDermott. "We'll probably do some business leading up to NATPE and some there," says McDermott. She is still looking at the new product that syndicators rolled out just prior to NATPE.
Changes to Young's daytime lineup might occur if talk shows like Ananda continue to fail to bring in viewers. "We're waiting to see the numbers," says McDermott, before making any adjustments. Young's daytime offerings also include Montel, Martha Stewart Living, Sally Jessy Raphael, Live With Regis and Kelly, and The View.
As for access, Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Entertainment Tonight remain a staple at many Young stations. Dating shows Elimidate and Rendez-View, which Young carries in Los Angeles and San Francisco, also seem to be doing "pretty well." KCAL(TV) Los Angeles runs both in early fringe.
|Number of stations: 42|
|Number of markets: 27|
Raycom Media is looking for "compelling" programming to shore up its 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule. But it's tough for broadcasters to find product that will bring viewers back to daytime television, says Vice President of Programming Mary Carole McDonnell.
Like others, Raycom provides mostly a mix of talk and court, including Live With Regis and Kelly, The View, Sally, Maury, Montel, Judge Mathias, Judge Hatchett, and Divorce Court. But McDonnell points out that there is growing concern that both genres are losing their appeal. "Whether or not court and talk are enough to keep surviving in our marketplace is a question that no one has the answer to."
McDonnell also believes that there are fewer products to choose from than in the past. However, the group will be evaluating new series The Rob Nelson Show, CelebrityJustice and Life Moments.
|Number of stations: 10|
|Number of markets: 9|
Scripps Howard is giving the game-show genre a try this fall, adding Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Pyramid at several stations. Weakest Link was also picked up in the Phoenix and Kansas City, Mo., markets for early fringe. KJRH(TV) Tulsa, Okla., runs Weakest Link in access.
Scripps plans to schedule Millionaire or Pyramid during early fringe, combining one or the other with Weakest Link. "Shows like Millionaire that have network track records are going to be worth more because they've got some performance you can look at. With these other shows, you don't know," says Gary Stark, director of programming and research at Scripps' WEWS(TV) Cleveland.
The group also cleared Dr. Phil for WPTV(TV) West Palm Beach, Fla., but Scripps hasn't decided where it will run. Stark says most of Scripps's stations are already in "good shape" with Oprah, Wheel of Fortune andJeopardy.
The biggest challenge facing the group could be if Ananda is canceled as Iyanla was last week. Neither show has been performing well. "It's too early to know for sure if we'll need replacements in the fall," says Stark. Scripps has two-year deals for Ananda in Cincinnati; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Tulsa. Iyanla aired in four markets as part of a one-year deal.
|Number of stations: 6|
|Number of markets: 6|
Strengthening daytime and early-fringe schedules appears to be the focus for Post-Newsweek this year. The group has invested in Dr. Phil, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Weakest Link, Pyramid and Texas Justice.." This is the best crop of shows that we've seen in a long time," says Post-Newsweek Stations President Alan Frank.
Dr. Phil was acquired for many of the group's stations and will likely lead into Oprah this fall. "We feel very good about Dr. Phil," says Frank. Millionaire and Weakest Link are slated for early fringe or possibly access. (Weakest Link airs on WPLG(TV) Miami and WDIV(TV) Detroit at 4 p.m.) Pyramid, another new offering, will run on several stations in either daytime or early fringe this fall. Frank says Pyramid may be paired with either Millionaire or Weakest Link.
Finding new daytime shows has been a concern for some time. "I think shows like Jenny Jones and Sally have probably run their course," says Frank. Texas Justice is now part of the morning lineup at WPLG(TV) Miami and WJXT(TV) Jacksonville, Fla.
|Number of stations: 12|
|Number of markets: 12|
"I think Dr. Phil is going to be a good show," says new President Kevin O'Brien, formerly of Cox's KTVU-TV Oakland, Calif. The industry needs one more good, successful hour talk show for first-run syndication to remain vibrant, he says.
Despite O'Brien's enthusiasm for Dr. Phil, he still has doubts about the genre's future. "Nothing ever seems to work in the talk genre. We've thrown everybody at the viewers including cast stars, kid stars, washed-up stars, MTV [personalities]; we've covered the gamut, and nothing seems to work." Meredith has acquired Dr. Phil in few markets, a deal that was made before O'Brien joined the group in November.
He would like to see syndicators develop a "nice hour transitional show between kids and adults that could be used from 5 to 6." He also believes there is "not room for another court show."
As for other new product, O'Brien considers Life Moments an "interesting" concept that may work for stations. And he thinks off-net offerings of Malcolm in the Middle and Becker will be a welcome addition to the syndication market.
The X-Files, Andromeda and Earth: Final Conflict appear on weekend schedules at some stations.
|Number of stations: 40|
|Number of markets: 28|
When it comes to first-run syndicated product, Clear Channel Television is taking a more conservative approach this year. The group has cleared Weakest Link, Millionaire and Pyramid in a handful of markets but is largely concentrating on renewals.
"We're not necessarily looking to take a lot of chances with new product when, every year, new product is not performing as well," says Vice President of Programming Dan Stein.
Renewals for Martha Stewart, Jerry Springer and Sally Jessy Raphael are under consideration. Stein is evaluating November ratings to decide what product will be renewed. Talkers Maury Povich and Jerry Springer do well on UPN and Fox affiliates, he says. Live With Regis and Kelly has "done fine" for traditional affiliates, while Martha Stewart's ratings have been more marginal, Stein says the show appeals to niche advertisers.
Clear Channel stations have daytime court offerings such as Judge Judy and Judge JoeBrown, but the group "definitely won't be buying more." Stein says distributors need to stick by their product and promote it rather than duplicate others. "The copycatting is killing us."
As for off-net syndication, in some cases, Fox and UPN affiliates will add That '70s Show, Will & Grace and Dharma & Greg to their fall access lineup.
|Number of stations: 29|
|Number of markets: 11|
LIN Television is fixing some daytime programming holes, but, overall, the group is "pretty well set," says Vice President Paul Karpowicz. "We don't have any major disasters on our hands."
The group has cleared a smattering of new product. "We've not done huge group deals. We've tried to make acquisitions based on the specific needs of the stations as well as on what's going on competitively in the market." LIN picked up Dr. Phil, Pyramid and Weakest Link, he says.
LIN will continue looking at new offerings. However, Karpowicz resists getting overly enthusiastic about new product. "We all know the track record of all syndication. You better not get too excited, because the odds are, it's not going to work anyway."
Currently, the group's daytime lineup is diverse, including Live With Regis and Kelly, Sally, Martha Stewart, Judge Mathias, and Judge Hatchett. In some cases, Crossing Over WithJohn Edward and Judge Judy air in early fringe. It also includes Iyanla, canceled by Buena Vista last week.
Access programs are a mix with Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Entertainment Tonight. Sitcoms such as Seinfeld and Just Shoot Me often run on the group's Fox and WB stations during access. On weekends, some LIN stations broadcast action series Relic Hunter and Andromeda.
|Number of stations: 26|
|Number of markets: 21|
Media General is fine-tuning its daytime and early-fringe schedules. It is also needs weekend hours.
Dr. Phil and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire are clearances for fall, but Media General is still considering some of the new product that rolled out in November and December. Vice President of Programming Steve Gleason notes that "9/11 seemed to stop a lot of buying. It seems like things are starting to pick up," He thinks Celebrity Justice and Life Moments have potential.
The group is tackling some concerns by clearing Dr. Phil in six markets: Spartanburg, S.C.; Roanoke, Va.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Charleston, S.C.; Florence, S.C.; and Panama City, Fla. The show will broadcast either in daytime or as a lead-in to Oprah, according to Gleason.
Weekend hours feature Andromeda, Earth Final: Conflict, Beastmaster, Stargate SG-1 and The Bravest.
|Number of stations: 39|
|Number of markets: 17|
Like other broadcasters, Emmis went after high-profile offerings Dr Phil, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and Weakest Link. The group's Fox and WB affiliates still need syndicated product for mornings and afternoons. Emmis is also seeking weekend hours and movie packages.
"I think it's going to be a busier NATPE than I anticipated," says Vice President of Programming Dave Ward. Fox gave back two hours to its affiliates, which Ward sees as an "opportunity" to program more during the day.
Dr. Phil will air in eight markets this fall in the afternoon. "If anybody's got a shot coming out of the box," says Ward, "it's Dr. Phil." Emmis stations have made a substantial commitment to talk, with Sally, The View, Live With Regis and Kelly, and Jerry Springer, among others.
As for Weakest Link, Emmis runs the show in access on WVUE(TV) New Orleans and KMTV(TV) Omaha, Neb. And Millionaire airs this fall in either early fringe or access in Terre Haute, Ind., and Wichita, Kan. Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy can be found on many stations, while some markets carry Seinfeld, Friends and Everybody Loves Raymond in access. This fall, Will & Grace, That '70s Show and Dharma & Greg join the access lineup.
|Number of stations: 9|
|Number of markets: 7|
At Allbritton, broadcasting syndicated product with a track record has been good business. Generally, the group shies away from the newer crop of shows. "We have tried to look for established programs with loyal viewers that will be good lead-ins to our own locally produced product. Sometimes you pay a little more, but, in the long run, it's working for us." says President Fred Ryan.
Furthermore, he thinks stations lose viewers when they constantly change program schedules to add the "show de jour." Last season, Allbritton resisted jumping on the Ananda or Iyanla bandwagon. "They were two shows hyped to the extreme. We didn't buy them. We haven't seen them do anything yet," says Ryan. (In fact, Iyanla was canceled last week.)
Fall acquisitions are limited to Pyramid for WJLA-TV Washington and Who Wantsto Be a Millionaire for WHTM-TV Harrisburg, Pa.
The group has long-term deals for most product, including Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy and Hollywood Squares. Stations also carry Extra and Inside Edition. Morning programming often includes Live With Regis and Kelly and The View. Montel runs during morning and early fringe. Some stations air Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown.
|Number of stations: 2|
|Number of markets: 2|
Maintaining the status quo at WSVN(TV) Miami Beach, Fla., and WHDH(TV) Boston is Sunbeam's syndication strategy. The group's two stations are concentrating on renewals.
Fox affiliate WSVN renewed Live With Regis and Kelly, Family Feud, Montel, Divorce Court, Judge Hatchett, Judge Judy, and the station's access offering of Inside Edition. Weekend programming includes ER and The Practice.
In Boston, at NBC affiliate WHDH, Live With Regis and Kelly and Family Feud will remain in the daytime and early-fringe lineups, respectively. Access Hollywood and Extra are the station's access programs. Weekend versions of Extra and Access Hollywood are carried on WHDH.
Although Sunbeam won't be a major buyer at NATPE, it will be represented there. "I think NATPE is a really good convention to network with other broadcasters and syndicators," says Bob Leider, vice president and general manager at WSVN.
Both he and WHDH counterpart Mike Carson are going. Leider thinks combining industry conferences-such as BPME, RTNDA, TVB, NATPE and NAB-into one central meeting might be the way to go. It would be "unhealthy" not to have any industry meetings, he says.
|Number of stations: 15|
|Number of markets: 14|
Liberty's syndication agenda has only a few morning and early-fringe holes left to fix. The group, formerly Cosmos, jumped "pretty heavily" on the Dr. Phil bandwagon, clearing it in about eight markets, says Vice President of Operations Guy Hempel.
"Morning is a difficult time period to find any audience. Most of the deals we are doing now are barter only," says Hempel, adding that the group is staying away from multi-year deals for untested product.
Liberty will run Dr. Phil in the mornings as a lead-in to Oprah for some markets or at 3 p.m. The group also picked up Weakest Link in a few markets, primarily for early fringe. It also acquired Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for either access or early fringe. Pyramid was picked up for two markets.
Live With Regis and Kelly is performing well for many Liberty stations. Ananda, Martha Stewart and Crossing Over With John Edward get morning clearances. Rosie's departure will create some early-fringe holes, says Hempel.
Access is a solid time period, with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy on many stations. The group stays away from off-net sitcoms because of the length of the commitment, says Hempel. Liberty stations are NBC, CBS and ABC affiliates and do not have a great need to fill weekend hours.
|Number of stations: 28|
|Number of markets: 22|
Rosie O'Donnell's exodus from syndication has Benedek Broadcasting looking seriously for new programming. About nine stations carry the show mostly in daytime, and the group will use Dr. Phil as a replacement in some markets.
"We still have a handful of markets where there may be some other changes," says Senior Vice President Chris Cornelius. The group is also waiting to see syndicators' plans for Ananda, offered in a few markets, and must find a replacement for Iyanla.
However, the group is prepared to tackle some of those challenges with the acquisitions already made. Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Weakest Link and Pyramid will likely appear in early fringe.
Cornelius thinks Life Moments has potential and there "may be a spot" for the show on the group's schedule.
|Number of stations: 14|
|Number of markets: 9|
Most of Fisher's syndication deals are designed to to enhance its daytime and early-fringe offerings. The group's major challenge was to find replacements for Rosie.
Dr. Phil will fill in at KBCI-TV Boise, Idaho, and KVAL-TV Eugene, Ore. At KOMO(TV) Seattle and KATU(TV) Portland, Ore., says President Ben Tucker, "given the difficulty new talk shows are having establishing an audience, we went in a different direction," slotting Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and Pyramid in the afternoons there. Fisher is adding Weakest Link to the daytime lineup at KIMA-TV Yakima, Wash., Tucker says.
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