Syndication Schedule Fills Out for Fall

Anemic post-NATPE early market has bulked up as 2017 progressed

Why This Matters

Syndicated shows from major producers have waned in recent years, but station groups still need fresh product to offer viewers.

At the annual NATPE conference in Miami in January, station-group buyers were distressed to realize only one real show from a major distributor had been offered to them: Page Six TV, which is being sold by Twentieth Television and produced by Endemol Shine North America. In the months since, the field has filled a bit with other choices.

Those choices include several shows that had also been bumping around at NATPE. At the conference, Tegna announced B.O.L.D. (Broadcast Online Live Daily), and, at the time, it was hoping to be able to clear talk show T.D. Jakes nationally while launching B.O.L.D. Besides Page Six TV, Twentieth also was shopping another show it tested last summer, Top 30.

Other projects included a Scripps-produced life­style talk show to be shot in Nashville starring Kellie Pickler and Ben Aaron. Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios was also actively pitching a new game-come­dy hybrid called Funny You Should Ask, and Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer announced Couples Court.

Another show was scarcely mentioned at NATPE: DailyMailTV had been shopped around in the prior season, but since then talk around it had cooled to the point where no one was sure it was still in the market.

Now, much of what’s happening with those shows has solidified as groups lock down their fall sched­ules. Page Six TV is still the most prominent offer­ing, with clearances surpassing 90% of the country and runs in access on Fox-owned stations across the U.S. starting this fall.

Top 30, which is being sold on an all-barter basis, is now cleared in about 70% of the country, includ­ing on Fox-owned stations. Both Funny You Should Ask and Couples Court are expected to go forward for fall, while the status of Scripps’ talk show re­mains unclear.

B.O.L.D., renamed Daily Blast Live, also will go forward this fall, but at a lesser scale than Teg­na originally intended. The group had brought on MGM Domestic Television Distribu­tion to help it clear the show, but once Tegna got into the marketplace it found stations weren’t willing to ante up cash for the show, and it couldn’t clear enough stations on an all-barter basis to make that worth it to Tegna, said Bob Sullivan, senior vice presi­dent of programming, Tegna.

As a result, Tegna will air Daily Blast Live on its own 36 stations, covering about 25% of the mar­ket, with the intent of taking the show back to the national market next year. It will be produced out of Tegna’s KUSA Denver, and will offer seven live feeds per day. Originally, the show had planned to shoot 13 live feeds a day, but is scal­ing back in light of the new plans.

“Our focus isn’t on entertain­ment, it’s on what are people talking about, what’s being shared, what’s viral,” said Sullivan. “In this envi­ronment in which we all live, all of us get up in the morning looking at our cellphones and go to bed look­ing at our cellphones. Everyone is already multitasking. We’re saying, ‘Give us 30 minutes, we’ll catch you up on everything you would have done if you were on your device.’ ”

Tegna also decided to end T.D. Jakes’ run after giving the show a year on its stations.

You’ve Got ‘Mail’

Then this spring, a new show suddenly appeared on the scene. The Tribune, Sinclair and Gray sta­tion groups all announced they were picking up DailyMailTV, produced by Jay McGraw’s Stage 29 Productions and distributed by CBS Television Dis­tribution. With that one announcement, that show went from something that felt like it was being kept in a back filing cabinet to one of this year’s two ma­jor offerings.

All told, that means four out of six new shows are news and information-based, although the pro­ducers and distributors of all four shows say each is different from the other, as well as different from the existing entertainment magazines already in the marketplace.

The predominant reaction from syndication ex­ecutives was simple happiness that product is being offered in the market.

“Overall, I’m just happy to see more stuff,” Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming at Fox Television Stations, said. “Some shows will be on certain groups, others are national projects. We are suffer­ing from stagnation in these lineups, so I’m happy that there’s more stuff getting on the air however it gets there.”

Debmar-Mercury copresident Mort Marcus agreed. “In a way, I feel good that the market found room to support four shows,” he said.

In the end, the current state of the marketplace is the result of two conflicting forces. On one hand, TV audiences are fragmented, resulting in far fewer people coming to watch shows in a schedule. On the other, TV stations aren’t going anywhere, and they need product with which to program themselves. The dynamic has created an economic problem the industry is still trying to solve.

“The economics of all of television has caused the shift and that’s what we’re dealing with now,” Cicha said. “I’d be very pleased if we could roll out seven to 10 shows every year. However we do it, that is one way to combat this overall problem of not enough shows.”