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On the Fringe

NBC’s top stations face possible shortfall in 2006 12/05/2004 07:00:00 PM Eastern

NBC’s O&O stations in the top three markets need to shore up syndicated fare for fall 2006.

That’s because the network has relinquished its lucrative early-fringe programming in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. It’s an open question what will replace its current lineup. For now, The Ellen DeGeneres Show is a leading contender.

In New York, Paramount’s Judge Judy is moving from WNBC to WCBS, which reportedly paid some $250,000 per week for the show in a two-year deal, totalling $13 million annually.

Paramount won’t allow WNBC to run its Judge Joe Brown, which the station renewed, against Judge Judy. For now, that leaves WNBC without a big-name show to compete against Judy and The Oprah Winfrey Show at 4 p.m. in the No. 1 market.

In Los Angeles, KNBC let KCBS pick up King World’s Dr. Phil for approximately $225,000 per week. KNBC had been paying an estimated $185,000 for it and refused to fork over the increases demanded by the distributor.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, Viacom’s WBBM stole Phil away from NBC’s WMAQ, which was using it as a lead-in to its early newscast. WBBM paid $140,000 a week for Phil, per industry estimates, where WMAQ had been paying $80,000. WBBM will pair Phil with Judge Judy, leading into news.

Without powerhouse early-fringe shows, top NBC stations may struggle in 2006. Because the network isn’t doing well, it needs to protect its early news, which will be adversely impacted by the loss of its winning lead-in. In two years, observers claim, stations could face financial shortfalls.

But insiders familiar with the situation disagree. They say NBC couldn’t make money on the shows at such high prices and decided the lead-in bump wasn’t worth the additional cost. NBC could have the biggest ratings numbers in the world, says one executive, “but if it loses a ton of money, it doesn’t win.”

Although most industry observers don’t expect NBC Universal’s The Jane Pauley Show to become the next big early-fringe vehicle, Warner Bros.’ NBC is happy with Ellen’s performance in its O&O markets; plus, the network is a profit participant.

With Dr. Phil moving to 5 and 7 p.m. in many markets, there are no immediate replacements, but Ellen could have an easier time at 3 and 4 p.m. without competition from Phil.

 

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