New Fox, New Sinclair Will Mean New NATPE

Rapidly consolidating TV marketplace is changing the face of annual programming confab

Why This Matters

Industry consolidation might soon make NATPE irrelevant for syndicators, stations.

By this time next year, the NATPE convention might be a very different conference.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is expected to have absorbed Tribune Media and to have sold a few stations to Fox. The Walt Disney Co. will likely close on its deal with 21st Century Fox, subsuming 20th Century Fox’s syndication operations, although no decisions have yet been made. Disney generally does not have a presence at NATPE, so that will dwindle even further the ranks of major Hollywood studios to be on hand at the Miami confab.

Already, the annual programming conference has become much more of an international meet-and-greet than a place where production studios actually sell shows to TV stations — that business gets done once everyone is back in the office and off the expense accounts.

“We haven’t actually done a deal here in 20 years,” said one syndication executive, “but we have lots of conversations with our clients in which we discuss where this business is going.”

Instead of buying new shows, of which there are very few available, studios and station groups renewed what they had, even though none of it is breaking a 1.0 household rating.

The two major launches from last season — CBS Television Distribution’s DailyMailTV, produced by Jay McGraw’s Stage 29 Productions and DailyMail.com, and Twentieth Television’s Page Six TV, produced by Endemol Shine North America — both received second-season pick ups. DailyMailTV’s renewal was announced just before NATPE, while the Fox Television Stations announced they had picked up Page Six TV during the show.

Page Six TV fits our strategy and has shown great promise over its first few months,” said Frank Cicha, senior vice president of programming for Fox Television Stations. “We expect growth this year, and certainly in year two, as well.”

Whether Page Six TV will continue to be supported within the larger Fox organization is in question, however, now that Disney is in progress on acquiring most of 21st Century Fox.

Tegna entered a sales and distribution partnership with Sony Pictures Television to try to clear Daily Blast Live in additional markets as well as sell national advertising for the show, which also will be back for a second season.

“It’s a one-of-a-kind agreement, where Tegna and Sony Pictures Television each bring distinct strengths to the new partnership,” Tegna senior vice president for programming Robert Sullivan said. “With Daily Blast Live and other programs in our creative pipeline, together with Sony’s expertise in the three key areas of sales, development and distribution, we look forward to expanding our list of available content for Tegna stations and beyond.”

Daily Blast Live, which is produced live several hours a day out of Tegna’s KUSA Denver, airs on Tegna-owned stations in 36 markets and on YouTube and Facebook Live.

E. W. Scripps said it will bring back Nashville-based talk show Pickler & Ben, starring Kellie Pickler and Ben Aaron, for a second season. That show is currently cleared only on Scripps stations covering 30% of the U.S. and on Viacom-owned cable network CMT so Scripps is seeking additional clearances.

And Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios will continue to produce comedy game show Funny You Should Ask for two more seasons.

Prior to NATPE, one new show was cleared nationally: Debmar-Mercury’s Caught in Providence, a new court show starring 80-year-old Judge Frank Caprio from Providence, R.I.

During NATPE, Sinclair announced it had acquired a one-hour strip from Investigation Discovery called True Crime Files that will be pulled from the true-crime cable network’s library of programs. As a result, neither Sinclair nor Tribune, soon to be part of Sinclair, will air Warner Bros.’ Crime Watch Daily With Chris Hansen after this season. Warner Bros. plans to seek new broadcast partners for the show, but getting it re-cleared in national broadcast syndication without either of those groups will be difficult.

New Entrants Seek Traction

Other new shows are still being considered. Warner Bros. is offering Last Laugh with Jane Lynch for prime access and primetime, although whether or not that program goes forward seems dependent on the Fox-owned stations. Price appears to be an issue, however, since the show will be expensive.

CBS Television Distribution is shopping Stage 29’s Face the Truth, starring Vivica A. Fox, and that show has a good chance of launching next season. Meanwhile, CTD’s The Doctors is expected to end after this season.

Debmar-Mercury has another show on offer: Question Jury, which is a reality show based on a U.K. format. Pitches for that show are just getting underway.

Expected to go away after this season, although not officially announced, is NBCUniversal’s Harry, starring Harry Connick Jr. But quietly renewed is NBCU’s Steve, starring Steve Harvey, which moved to Los Angeles this year and is now produced by WME-IMG.