First-Run Strategy Adapts
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 1/4/2004 7:00:00 PM
As syndication adjusts to consolidation, there is more certainty and less scrambling for time slots: All syndicators know that first consideration for any vertically integrated station group's time slot goes to its related syndicator.
Syndicators are adapting by developing shows aimed specifically at openings on the five major launch groups: NBC, ABC, Viacom, Fox and Tribune. As a result, fewer first-run shows are developed each year. And, by the time NATPE rolls around, most of the shows are largely cleared.
"We're not nearly as in control of our marketing plans as we once were," says John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television. "Now we need to counsel first with the 'five families' before we go out into the marketplace.
"Now that we've figured out these rules and we've all kind of agreed on them," he continues, "that's made the business even again. We are all coexisting instead of not knowing what the station groups' business plans are and thus not knowing how to conduct our own businesses. People have realized they can't do it all themselves."
This year, the major launches include NBC Enterprises'The Jane Pauley Show, Paramount's The Insider, Buena Vista's The Tony Danza Show, and Twentieth's On Air With Ryan Seacrest.
Sony is working on clearing two shows—Life & Style and Pat Croce: Moving In—and still has EBayTV on the back burner, although the company has yet to secure a viable launch group for the show.
"We have a very healthy view of syndication," says John Weiser, executive vice president of sales for Sony Pictures Television. "As it relates to the marketplace, we are the only major non-vertically-integrated company. I'm not sure any other company this year is bringing out two new shows. We think it's a healthy marketplace, and we source and capitalize it that way.
"We really believe—and this is also important for the talent and profit participants—that we are obligated to take our shows to every single station in every single market," Weiser adds. "We present our shows to everyone."
Universal Domestic Television and Tribune Entertainment are deciding which shows out of four possibilities to launch on the Tribune group. On the list are Tribune's Jamie Unleashed, featuring radio talk-show host Jamie White, and another show that would be hosted by E!'s Melissa Rivers.
Universal has two shows in development that Tribune could pick up, as part of a co-development and distribution deal the two companies signed in June 2002. Universal is bringing to market a young-female-skewing talk show, executive-produced by Jennifer Lopez under her Nuyorican Productions banner, and featuring Lopez and her sister Lynda in hosting roles.
Universal's other show in the works is a mix of Discovery's Trading Spaces and King World's Dr. Phil, created and executive-produced by Denise Cramsey, formerly of Trading Spaces. Universal executives say both shows are definitely going forward, although they have not announced a launch group for either.
Tribune also is deciding whether to renew Warner Bros.'The Sharon Osbourne Show, which will make a difference in terms of how many slots are available on the Tribune stations.
Another unknown is how NBC's pending acquisition of Universal will affect the newly merged syndication division.
Going into NATPE, Jane Pauley's new show is cleared in more than 90% of the country, with 80% of those clearances in early-fringe time periods, leading into local news. The show is cleared on 10 of NBC's 14 TV stations, including WNBC-TV New York, KNBC-TV Los Angeles and WMAQ-TV Chicago. NBC also lists stations from Hearst-Argyle, Gannett, LIN Television and E.W. Scripps among its launch group.
With The John Walsh Show going off the air but Starting Over coming back for season two, the NBC stations don't have as many open slots as it once appeared they would. For that reason, NBC is putting on hold its launch of one or two first-run makeover shows— including a spinoff of Bravo hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy—although three such shows remain in development at NBC.
Twentieth's Seacrest is cleared in 93% of the country and launches one week before NATPE, on Jan. 12. The show is mostly cleared in early fringe on affiliates of Fox, The WB and UPN, with 80%-85% of the country airing the live one-hour talk/variety/entertainment hybrid at 4 or 5 p.m.
"We'll be selling Ryan right up to the Friday before the launch," says Twentieth Television Executive Vice President of Sales and General Sales Manager Paul Franklin. "We're still pushing and selling in markets to get him as deep as possible."
Buena Vista is gearing up to launch The Tony Danza Show, with no clearances yet announced. Although industry observers believe the show will end up replacing the low-rated Wayne Brady Show on the ABC owned stations, BVT President Janice Marinelli says whether that show will continue depends on its growth in the major markets and its demographic performance. "I would rather keep the show on the air than replace it in any way, shape or form. The stations are going to make a decision based on a local-market number, not a national number."
Still, it makes the most sense to replace Wayne Brady with Tony Danza, given the lack of available slots on the major launch groups.
Although the syndication market has definitely become smaller, many shows are performing as well as they ever have. Syndication has seen several successes in the past two years. But it has taken some fancy footwork.
Warner Bros., which has shows in development but thus far isn't promoting any new first-run shows at NATPE this year, says it has dealt with consolidation by cutting its sales staff but increasing its production budget.
"Our only leverage now is to offer better product," says Dick Robertson, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. "We've increased our development budget to two to three times what it used to be, and we are spending a fortune in tying up key talent. And most of our key people come out of local TV stations. We think we are as close to the customer as we can get."
Still, syndicators are bullish on their business, with many veterans and several new shows thriving and advertising as healthy as it has ever been.
"Syndication feels more healthy in the sense that we have more success stories," says Bill Carroll, vice president of programming, for Katz Television Group Programming. "Last year, we had Dr. Phil and Millionaire, and, this year, there's Ellen and significant anticipation for Ryan Seacrest. Whenever you have success, then there's optimism and renewed belief that there can be hits."
|On Air With Ryan Seacrest||Twentieth||hour strip||cash + barter||Jan. 2004|
|The Tony Danza Show||Buena Vista||hour strip||cash + barter||Fall 2004|
|The Insider||Paramount||half-hour strip||cash + barter||Fall 2004|
|The Jane Pauley Show||NBC Enterprises||hour strip||cash + barter||Fall 2004|
|Pat Croce: Moving In||Sony||half-hour strip||barter||Fall 2004|
|Life & Style||Sony||hour strip||cash + barter||Fall 2004|
|Untitled Lopez show||Universal||hour strip||cash + barter||Fall 2004|
|Untitled lifestyle show||Universal||strip||to be determined||Fall 2004|
Paramount Domestic Television
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Two for the Show
Paramount Domestic Television's The Insider is more than just a companion show for longtime entertainment newsmagazine leader Entertainment Tonight—it's a custom-fit companion show, and that's never been done before in syndication.
The Insider is cleared in 82% of the country in various time periods, but in most markets, the show will air in access before or after ET. In some cases, it will air on its own in a single access time period or in late night, following the news.
To accommodate all those different slots, Paramount plans to shoot multiple openings and closings for ET and The Insider each day so both shows can work together or on their own.
For example, if ET airs at 7 p.m. in a market followed by The Insider at 7:30 p.m., ET will open the hour talking about the day's entertainment news, while The Insider will follow with in-depth stories and features on news-related topics. In the reverse situation, The Insider will include an opening that gives viewers a brief run-down of the day's news before moving into the rest of the program. The idea is to keep viewers locked in to what Paramount calls the "Hour of Power."
Customizing each show "is not a huge add-on cost, but any additional costs are well worth the effort," said John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television. "That's really where we are able to take advantage of being paired with ET."
Terry Wood, Paramount vice president of programming, said, "We've been studying this time period longer than anyone, and unlike pairings of other entertainment magazines, our content won't be fighting each other."
Stations find the relationship between the two shows attractive. "The Insider is very compatible with the syndicated programming that many of our stations air in prime access," said Dennis Swanson, chief operating officer of the Viacom Television Stations Group (Viacom also owns Paramount). "We believe that this show will spin out of ET the same way Dr. Phil spun out of Oprah."
The show doesn't have a host yet, but "there will be a very smart ringleader," Wood said. "We're not just going to cover stories, we're going to create stories that create buzz, and that will have people talking."
Insider segments already run as part of ET, and as the new show gets closer to launch, more will be revealed on its parent show, said ET and Insider executive producer Linda Bell Blue.
The Jane Pauley Show
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Jane Goes Up Against Oprah with The Jane Pauley Show, NBC Enterprises is betting that audiences will be drawn to a known commodity and a familiar personality.
"The show won't deviate too far from anything you know about me, or anything I know about me," Pauley said. "One of the things I needed to establish for sure before I agreed to do this show was that I could be the person that people have come to know. It would be a mistake if I tried to be someone else."
NBC Enterprises is choosing to start Pauley off in one of the toughest time periods in daytime—early fringe—to position the show as a local news lead-in. That pits her against syndication powerhouse King World's The Oprah Winfrey Show in many markets. While The Jane Pauley Show aspires to be Oprah-esque in terms of the show's variety of topics and depth of approach, NBC Enterprises knows there's only one Oprah.
"I really think if you produce a terrific show there's room at the table for everyone," said NBC Executive Vice President Linda Finnell. "As Jane says, 'If I can tape Oprah, why can't you?'"
The Jane Pauley Show won't be news-driven even though Pauley spent most of her career anchoring major NBC news franchises The Today Show and Dateline. Pauley will focus on feature stories, but the show will include news-based topics and segments.
"The beauty of Jane is that she's a woman who is so diverse in terms of what she can do," said Finnell. "The topics on the show will reflect her ability to talk about anything with anyone."
Finnell expects Pauley to be especially warmly received in mid-size and smaller markets where she is most relatable. Pauley spent her early years in news in Indianapolis and Chicago, and a wholesome, Midwestern appeal is part of her charm.
"The show will be aimed at women like Jane—mothers, working mothers, woman of an older demographic. Those are the women who are available to watch at that time of day," Finnell said.
Unlike Life & Style or On Air With Ryan Seacrest, which intend to flit from subject to subject, Jane Pauley will be a single-topic talk show, taking time to delve into the subject of the day. The show also might have different franchises that pop up regularly, along the lines of Oprah's Book Club or the Dr. Phil family.
The View Without Bifocals
With 70% to 80% of the daytime audience comprised of women, syndicators work hard to develop shows that will capture their attention. They especially want to lure younger women.
That's the idea between Sony Pictures Television's Life & Style, which features four hip, attractive women who are married and single, with and without children, just like the women Sony hopes will watch.
"It's The View without cataracts," said John Weiser, Sony Pictures television's executive vice president of sales.
Life & Style's four women—Jules Asner, Cynthia Garrett, Lynne Koplitz and Kimora Lee Simmons—have an average age of 36, which puts them in the right age group to attract the coveted 18-49 demographic.
"Women 25-54 and 18-49 are the most valuable audiences to reach," Weiser said. "How can you do it with hosts who aren't in that demo? We have a show where we have 36-year-old women talking to women the way they talk to each other."
Asner, host of E!'s Revealed with Jules Asner and one-time co-anchor of E! News Live, provides the star power for the group. She is married to acclaimed filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. Garrett hosted NBC's late-night interview show Later for two years. Simmons is a former model who is married to hip-hop multi-millionaire Russell Simmons, and comedian Koplitz was co-host of Food Network's How to Boil Water and once guest-hosted on NBC's Later.
"There's an undeniable energy when you put these four ladies together, and we can't wait to get them into living rooms across the country," said Sony Senior Vice President of Development and Syndicated Programming Melanie Chilek.
Each episode of Life & Style will be shot close to air to keep episodes as current as possible. The show will cover such familiar female ground as pop culture, relationships, celebrities and celebrity gossip, and fashion and beauty tips. The four hosts will talk to guests in the studio, and do narrative segments from the field.
"It will be topics that are popping ratings; things young adult women are interested in," Weiser said. "People are channel-surfing because they want to see something new every five minutes. We thought it was important to do that in one show."
On Air With Ryan Seacrest
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Run, Ryan, Run
It's a talk show, it's a variety show, it's an entertainment newsmagazine—no, it's On Air With Ryan Seacrest, a flashy hybrid of all these genres. And to add one more factor of difficulty, it's going to be broadcast live every day.
"It will cover music, movies, TV and pop culture—whatever people are talking about in chat rooms, sorority houses, offices across the country," said Twentieth President of Programming and Production Robb Dalton. "This is a very, very ambitious show. It doesn't take a breath."
On Air's new studio home is located in the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex and outdoor mall. The show will have an outdoor stage and an indoor stage and it will book two audiences every day. Fans can come by and wave signs and, at least two or three times a week, see big-name musical acts play the show. That's the plan.
On Air just started test-runs and after seeing the first of these, Dalton said he feels comfortable his production team can handle the pressure. Adam Freeman, the show's producer, comes from MTV's Total Request Live, where he oversaw some 1,000 episodes.
There's more "live" experience. Bob McKinnon, who has worked on Good Morning America, The Today Show and The Rosie O'Donnell Show, directs On Air.
Seacrest, though only 28, also has plenty of live experience. Besides his two seasons of American Idol, and hosting stints on several awards shows, Seacrest has been working in radio since he was 16. He interned at Atlanta's WSTR(FM) and was quickly promoted to deejay the station's 7 p.m.-midnight slot.
"Ryan's more comfortable in a live radio or TV setting than he is anyplace else," Dalton said. "Before a show, most people are in their dressing room and someone is rubbing their brow. Ryan is out talking to the audience and running around."
On Air with Ryan Seacrest launches Jan. 12, just one week before the third season of Fox's American Idol kicks off. And on Jan. 10, Seacrest is taking over Casey Kasem's weekly nationally syndicated radio program, America's Top 40. With all that on his plate, he will continue hosting his daily four-hour drive-time radio program on Los Angeles' KYSR(FM), with co-host Lisa Foxx. According to Dalton, "There's no quiet time with Ryan Seacrest. It's not part of the equation."
Sony Pictures Television
Pat Croce: Moving In
The Live-In Guru
For families who want to be on television but don't want to leave their homes, the answer is simple: call Pat Croce.
In its new reality strip Pat Croce: Moving In, Sony Pictures Television will install an around-the-clock surveillance system in a home so that Croce can observe family members in their natural environment. Once he gathers enough information, Croce will park his motor home next to the family's house and literally stick with them night and day to provide counseling and coaching intended to help the family solve its problems.
"We see video-taped pleas from families saying, 'Please come in and help us,'" said Sony Executive Vice President of Sales John Weiser. "If Pat sees a behavior he can address, he knocks on the door and moves in the with the family until he has a positive impact on them. He's really someone worth betting on."
"With Pat, it was the combination of a great simple format and a wonderful personality. We catch people off guard in their natural environments and help them work through and solve their problems," says Melanie Chilek, Sony senior vice president of programming.
Although Dr. Phil got to the idea first—adopting a family that he's been following for the first few months of this season—Chilek said Sony has been developing such a show for about five years, but didn't move forward until they found Croce.
"He just rises to the top as a star in this thing and that's an incredibly valuable asset," said Sony President of Programming and Production Russ Krasnow.
Croce, a former co-owner of the National Basketball Association's Philadelphia 76ers, is a Fortune 500 motivational speaker. He got his start as the strength and conditioning coach for the National Hockey League's Philadelphia Flyers and later served in the same capacity for the 76ers.
In 1984, he opened a sports physical therapist practice, which he ultimately expanded into 40 centers in 11 states. Nine years later, he sold the chain and formed a partnership with Comcast Corp. to buy the 76ers.
Besides being active in philanthropic causes, Croce is a third-degree black belt and is slated to do commentary for NBC Sports' judo coverage at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Sony has shot a pilot of Croce's show, which is executive produced by Barry Josephson and Arthur Smith.
Buena Vista Television
The Tony Danza Show
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Danza's Next Stanza
Buena Vista Television executives have been chasing down TV vet Tony Danza for years trying to get him to do a daytime talk show, and they finally nabbed him for next fall.
"I approached Tony two years ago and pitched him on why I absolutely wanted to be in business with him and why I thought he would make a great daytime talk show host," said Buena Vista Domestic Television Distribution President Janice Marinelli. "Tony has a good time. He loves life, and I think that is contagious."
"To find somebody like Tony Danza, who is a connective, charismatic individual that everybody feels like they already know, is a gift," said Holly Jacobs, Buena Vista Productions' executive vice president of programming and development.
Buena Vista started testing out Danza's appeal on daytime audiences with a guest-host stint on Buena Vista's Live With Regis and Kelly that garnered high ratings.
"The responses we got back were fabulous and fueled our interest in Tony," says Buena Vista Executive Vice President of Strategic Research Lloyd Komesar. "He connects with women in a way that makes them feel like he's a friend."
The Tony Danza Show will be more talk than variety, emphasizing Danza's gift for gab, even though the actor has spent the last several years on the road with his song-and-dance act. The show also will include some celebrity interviews, some human-interest pieces and field segments in which Danza mixes with the folk.
"Tony will definitely go out in the field—which he loves to do—and surprise viewers," Jacobs said. "There also will be unique signature elements crafted around Tony's interests," which include cooking, current events, books and music. "Tony's passion is to celebrate all the things that connect us to each other."
Buena Vista has just started to sell The Tony Danza Show, so where it will air is undetermined. One possible location for it is in Wayne Brady's spot on the majority of the ABC-owned stations should the low-rated show go off the air, but there are also several other opportunities for Danza on other launch groups next fall.
"If we feel Wayne is growing, then we are going to stick with the show," Marinelli said. "We are going to talk to our key clients, and the ABC launch group in particular, before making any decisions. We would rather keep the show on the air than replace it in any way, shape or form."
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