Susanne Ault -- Broadcasting & Cable, 7/8/2001 8:00:00 PM
Twentieth Television is happy to watch the 2002 clearance race among game strips Buena Vista's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, NBC's Weakest Link and Columbia TriStar's Pyramid. "Let's let the game shows hammer it out," says Twentieth sales chief Paul Franklin, noting that offering court strip Texas Justice temporarily without a license fee "has given us a slight advantage."
So far, 73% of the country has accepted Twentieth's proposal that stations run Texas Justice without a fee, retaining the entire commercial inventory, from September until the show's official January debut. Stations on board for the national kickoff include WPLG-TV Miami, WNPA-TV Pittsburgh, KUSI-TV San Diego and the previously announced Fox O&Os, many of which have been airing Texas Justice on a test basis since spring. But, after the New Year, stations will revert to typical license-fee/barter-advertising deals.
Millionaire and Weakest Link, snapping up access and early-fringe time slots, are in a different league from the daytime-geared Texas Justice. But the court show is thought to be battling it out with Donny Osmond-hosted Pyramid, which has been targeting morning slots and recently picked up a 10 a.m. home on WBTV-TV Charlotte, N.C.
In San Diego, KUSI-TV aims to air Pyramid in prime time, and KNSD-TV will play it in daytime and early fringe. Three Twentieth strips—Texas Justice, Power of Attorney and Divorce Court—will reportedly land multiple runs on multiple stations once News Corp., parent of Twentieth and the Fox O&Os, finalizes its acquisition of the Chris-Craft station group. The plan is to have two distribution partners in each of the top markets.
Already, Twentieth has placed Divorce Court and Power of Attorney on San Francisco's Granite-owned KNTV-TV and KTWB-TV. Franklin doesn't rule out a similar arrangement with, for instance, Los Angeles' Fox-owned KTTV-TV and Chris-Craft's KCOP-TV. Although no specific plans are in place, he sees the move toward multiple runs of syndicated shows "really coming on in the last couple of years. You can cume your ratings and add to your advertising revenue."
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