Small Distributor, Big Plans
Litton bets on 'Team' and 'Explorer'
By Jim Finkle -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/13/2005 7:00:00 PM
Litton Entertainment is readying two new shows. It tapped an explorer-turned-journalist to head its next first-run adventure, The World Explorer, a half-hour program targeting teens. It's also betting that one of Donald Trump's Apprentice candidates, Troy McClain, has enough charisma to host Home Team, a me-too version of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition geared to the 18-34 market.
If both weekend offerings make it to air this fall, the tiny company from Mount Pleasant, S.C., could become one of a handful of distributors with more than one new syndicated show on TV, following a lackluster development season.
The World Explorer, hosted by Explorers Club President Richard Wiese, has cleared more than 60% of the country, including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. The future of Home Team is less certain, since it has cleared only 40%.
In each episode, McClain provides a deserving family with a 10% down payment on a home and a promise to make the first-year mortgage payments. “We're still in serious conversations with the major groups,” says Litton EVP Tim Voit.
Litton's credits include personal-finance magazine Business Week: Money Talks, 30-minute comedy strip Ask Rita and American Toy Test. It also created Thunderbox, a variety show with boxing, videogames and live music performances that made its way to the pay-per-view market.
The company's most successful show, 15-year-old Jack Hanna's Animal Adventures, is available weekly in 93% of the U.S. In a good week, it has pulled in higher ratings than The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The host of Animal Adventures has become a fixture on the talk circuit; Hanna has appeared with exotic and funny-looking animals on such shows as Late Night With David Letterman.
The household rating for Animal Adventures is averaging 1.5 this season, putting it somewhere around No. 85 among the 153 shows rated by Nielsen. It is tied with NBC Universal's The Jane Pauley Show.
The FCC has been one of Hanna's biggest supporters, awarding him the U.S. government's seal of approval: Animal Adventures can be included as part of a station's requirement to broadcast at least three hours of educational programming each week.
Although Litton hopes for similar success with its newest ventures, Home Team has been slow to win clearances. Once reason: Stations sometimes look at Litton shows as backups if they lose bids for more highly contested programming. A case in point, Home Team lost out to Viacom's Enterprise in New York and Chicago.
But bigger rivals haven't scared Litton. Says Voit, “We like to say we're the tallest midget.”
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