Paramount to Clone ET
Studio readying ET2 as substitute for King World's saggiing game show
By Paige Albiniak and Dan Trigoboff -- Broadcasting & Cable, 12/1/2002 7:00:00 PM
Paramount is developing a spin-off of Entertainment Tonight that it will offer it to TV stations as a companion to ET in fall 2004, according to industry sources.
The new half hour is based on ET's Insider segment, which features gossip on show biz and its stars, the sources say.
The show likely will run in access time periods, replacing King World's Hollywood Squares, which hasn't done well in the ratings despite a revamp at the beginning of this year. Squares is expensive, with the CBS station group paying $500,000-$600,000 a week for it. Without strong ratings to bring in the advertising, the show may be losing money for the stations.
Earlier this fall, the CBS O&Os wanted to dump the show before their contract with King World expired in favor of the ET spin-off, but, because Paramount, King World and CBS are all owned by Viacom, peace was brokered among the three.
Now the CBS O&Os will hold on to Squares through the end of the 2003-04 season, and the stations will honor the show's access time slots, although a few stations will be allowed to move it, sources say.
Exiting the November sweeps, Squares' ratings actually were up 6% from a year ago, according to Nielsen's weighted metered markets. But they were down 8% from the show's average lead-in rating and off a full share point. Moreover, a 6% increase isn't a big jump from a rating that stations already were unhappy with.
On many of Viacom's top stations, the show's performance has fallen off significantly. At KCAL(TV) in Los Angeles, the show's ratings are down 15% at 7:30 p.m. and the show ranks seventh in its time period. At WBZ-TV Boston, the show's ratings are down 37% from a year ago.
Still, the show holds up in some markets. On Belo-owned KHOU-TV in Houston, the show is up 13% from its sweeps' performance last year, and it increases its lead-in by 69%.
A spin-off based on Entertainment Tonight makes sense. The show is the top-rated daily entertainment-news program on the air. In the past year, ET has been working on expanding its brand, with a younger-skewing show on MTV and VH-1 just renewed for the full season.
Should Squares continue to fade, King World itself also could step in with its own replacement show. But first it will have to find a new programming team.
King World chose not to renew the contracts of its top development executives: Steven Nalevansky, senior VP of programming and development, and Mary Duffy, VP of production and development. Vanessa Coffey, VP of development, resigned and the company laid off manager Mark Severino and two assistants.
The move has led to some speculation that Viacom will consolidate syndication development and production under Paramount, leaving distribution to King World.
Arthur Sando, a King World spokesman, says there is no truth to the speculation and that the two companies continue to be run separately. King World is searching for new executives to staff the department, Sando says.
Working together, however, the two have had great success this year with the launch of Paramount-produced and King World-distributed Dr. Phil. Next fall, King World is launching Living It Up! With Ali & Jack, from an idea developed by King World's sales department.
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