More Splash, Less Cash

Distributors introduce fresh crop of branded, cost-effective offerings

Why This Matters

Veteran Shows Plan Big Openers

Never to be overshadowed by rookies, syndie vets are planning big opening weeks, particularly CBS Television Distribution’s Oprah. The talk leader kicks off the first week of its last year on television Sept. 13.

Monday is the show’s “top-secret” season premiere, featuring celebrity guests and a surprise musical performance. The rest of the week will be followed by several trips down memory lane, with Naomi and Wynonna Judd returning to the set, and the show returning to Williamson, W. Va., where it first explored the surging AIDS epidemic. On Friday, Oprah will announce its 64th Book Club pick.

Disney-ABC’s Live With Regis and Kelly returns to live programming on Monday, with a week of trying to break Guinness World records, including “most people inside a soap bubble,” currently 39, and “longest breath held voluntarily,” currently 15 minutes 2 seconds.

CTD’s Dr. Phil will focus this season, his ninth, on domestic violence. The show’s debut episode is titled “End the Silence on Domestic Violence.” On Tuesday, Dr. Phil will introduce the “Dr. Phil Housewives,” six women who will share their lives and their struggles with Dr. Phil over the course of a multi-part series.

Warner Bros.’ Ellen will host her first show back on-site at the MTV Video Music Awards in downtown Los Angeles, with Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Usher and Chelsea Handler joining her onstage.
Paige Albiniak

The round of freshman first-run and off-network offerings being
introduced to stations this fall exemplify syndication’s new paradigm:
pre-branded, economically produced shows that can make a
splash without costing a fortune.

This fall, five first-run shows, three from major distributors, are premiering.
Both Sony’s Nate Berkus and CBS Television Distribution’s Swift Justice
With Nancy Grace
fit that model: Berkus is well known from his days on
Oprah, while Grace has a substantial following from her work on CourtTV
(now TruTV) and CNN’s HLN (formerly Headline News). Twentieth’s major
entry, Don’t Forget the Lyrics!, is known from a primetime run on Fox.

That’s also why syndicators and stations are taking their chances with
three off-cable shows, NBC Universal’s Real Housewives, MGM’s Cash Cab
and Debmar-Mercury’s E! True Hollywood Stories—viewers know them and
they are already produced.

The same goes for two new shows premiering in select markets. The costs
of producing NBC Universal’s new Access Hollywood Live, like the fourth
hour of the Today show, are amortized by using the flagship program’s resources.
Access Hollywood Live launches Sept. 13 on 13 NBC-, Fox- and Local
TV-owned stations. The show will feature Billy Bush and Kit Hoover dishing
celebrity news and gossip.

Program Partners’ Steven & Chris,
cleared in the 40% of the U.S., has been
on the air in Canada for three seasons,
although the show’s hosts are known to
American audiences through their work on cable.

Berkus, who grew to fame by making over people’s homes
on Oprah, kicks off opening week Sept. 13 by introducing Instant
Design Studio, a technology that lets him design a space
right in front of viewers’ eyes, and also conducts an interview
with Elizabeth Edwards Sept. 17. Swift Justice will get right
down to business, hearing litigants and deciding cases.

Don’t Forget the Lyrics!, hosted by Mark McGrath, premieres
in syndication Sept. 20. The show will launch in primetime
on MyNetworkTV Oct. 5, featuring appearances from celebrity
guests such as the Backstreet Boys and American Idol favorites.

Two other newcomers join Grace in the crowded court genre,
with Litton Entertainment ending Street Court and restarting
Judge Karen, a show that Sony stopped producing a year ago.
Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios (ES) is introducing America’s
Court With Judge Ross
, produced in high-definition and aired
in syndication and on ES’ fledgling cable networks.

Of all the offerings, Berkus is probably the most high profile.
The show is the fourth spinoff from Oprah, after Dr. Phil, Rachael
and Dr. Oz. Oz premiered last year and was the top-rated first-run
launch since Rachael Ray in 2006.

Berkus occupies a prominent spot on the NBC owned stations, which are
revamping their daytime lineups by adding Berkus, Access Hollywood Live
and the off-Bravo Real Housewives. Warner Bros.’ The Ellen DeGeneres Show,
renewed out through 2014 on the stations, anchors the daytime schedule.

“It’s all part of an overall daytime revitalization with the Today show and
Days of Our Lives as the cornerstones,” says Bill Carroll, VP of programming
at Katz Television Group Programming. “Real Housewives most often will
run adjacent to Days of Our Lives. Nate will run adjacent to Ellen. Access
Hollywood Live
will often run out of the last hour of Today. The fates of all of
those shows end up being tied together.”

Stations also hope to brighten their access and late-fringe lineups with
four new off-net sitcoms. Twentieth’s How I Met Your Mother is considered the
strongest entry. The show, starring Emmy-winner Neil Patrick Harris and a
talented ensemble cast, should pair well with Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half
, which continues to haul in the genre’s strongest ratings.

Warner Bros. is launching The New Adventures of Old Christine, which
worked as a utility player on CBS for five seasons before the network finally
pulled the plug last spring. Cancellation usually works against off-network
sitcoms, but fans of the show may now seek it out in syndication. Christine
also should work well tonally with Mother and Men in TV station lineups.

HBO’s two quirky comedies, Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm, premiere
in syndication starting Sept. 13, occupying late-fringe and late-night
time slots due to their edgier content. Tribune, in particular, is counting on
these two shows to freshen their schedules.

The latest show from Tyler Perry, Meet the Browns, premieres in broadcast
syndication Sept. 20, two years after House of Payne launched on TV stations.
TBS just picked up another sitcom from Debmar-Mercury, Are We There Yet?,
produced by Ice Cube and Revolution Studios. House of Payne is a mediocre
performer on broadcast stations, and Meet the Browns is expected to turn in
a similar performance in pairings with Payne.

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