ANALYSIS: Syndie Landscape Solidifies
Even if Oprah exits, Phil, Jerry, Maury, Wilkos renewals mean 2011 less open than predicted
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/6/2009 4:14:06 PM
Although the future of The Oprah Winfrey Show was again called into question, a slew of renewals for other shows made syndication's lineup for 2011 and beyond a lot clearer. CBS Television Distribution's Dr. Phil; NBC Universal's Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos; and Warner Bros.' Jeanine Pirro all secured significant renewal deals.
Dr. Phil has been renewed through 2014 in 70% of the country, on stations from the CBS, Gannett, Belo, LIN Television, Cox and Media General groups. The Tribune stations renewed NBCU's trio of talkers groupwide through 2012. Tribune also picked up Warner Bros.' strips Jeanine Pirro, Judge Mathis, People's Court and TMZ, and weekly hour This Old House on several stations through 2012.
The future of CTD's Oprah, however, was less certain. Deadline Hollywood Daily's Nikki Finke reported on Nov. 5 that Winfrey would shutter her syndicated talk show when its contract expires in August 2011 and move it to OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, her new cable venture with Discovery Communications. Discovery Chief David Zaslav said the same a year ago during an earnings call.
Oprah's departure would leave a big hole for syndicators to fill in the afternoon, but last week's renewals mean that 2011 is going to be far less of an open market than had been predicted. Like Oprah, Dr. Phil has garnered some of the highest license fees in syndication, and whether CTD was going to be able to secure renewals for it had been an open question.
CTD executives say they were able to devise some creative deal-making to boost the appeal of bringing back Dr. Phil for all involved, including host and executive producer Dr. Phil McGraw.
"I am delighted that the Dr. Phil family of stations believes in and has made such a long-term commitment to what we are doing," McGraw says. "The commitment they have made to carry our show until 2014 inspires us even more to provide them with the ‘Gold Standard' in programming-programming they will continue to be proud to broadcast."
"All of these stations really want us to understand their business and be sympathetic to their needs," says John Nogawski, CTD's president. "We structured the license fees so that they made more sense to [the stations] than if they didn't do the deal."
Neither CTD nor stations would reveal the deal's terms, but it certainly involves reductions in license fees. "I prefer having our shows renewed for the long term even if there's less money attached," says Joe DiSalvo, CTD's president of domestic TV sales.
"It made sense for us to do this deal for all the right reasons," says Dennis Williamson, Belo's executive VP and CFO. "We felt that Dr. Phil was going to continue to be a foundation show for our stations in the afternoon."
At presstime, Winfrey's status officially remained the same: No decision has been made yet, according to statements issued Nov. 5 by her production company, Harpo, as well as OWN and CTD. Even if Winfrey decides to stick with syndication after 2011-a decision that would not be unprecedented, as she has said twice before that she would leave and then reupped-CTD might not remain the show's distributor. After the death of King World chief Roger King in 2007, Winfrey's loyalties have not remained with CTD, the company that absorbed King World. Harpo's latest syndication spinoff, Dr. Oz, is distributed by Sony.
Whether or not Tribune would bring back the NBCU talkers had also been a matter of debate. The station group was acquired by real estate mogul Sam Zell in 2007, and with that acquisition came a new leadership team looking to shake things up. But with the economy in the tank and new syndicated shows tough to launch, Tribune decided it made the most sense to stick with the devil it knows.
"You look at these [NBCU] shows' ratings and they are holding up," says Sean Compton, Tribune's senior VP of programming and entertainment. "When it's a tough economy like this one and automotive [advertising] has pulled out of the market, direct-response [advertising] is not a bad thing. These shows sell very well for our group. I don't want to be the idiot to go out and find the next 0.5-rated show. I hate to use the term ‘if it isn't broke, don't fix it,' but that applies here. Largely because of these shows, we are not struggling in daytime."
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