With New Season Under Way, Who's Got Next?

Eyeing 2013 start, Fox picks up Bethenny and expands TMZ Live test

The new TV season just
started, but syndicators and TV
executives are already busy looking
ahead to the future.

Last week, the Fox Television Group
acquired Warner Bros.’ Bethenny for a
2013 debut, after the show’s successful
six-week summer test in six markets.
While Fox would very much like to
premiere the show prior to next fall, the
economics and logistics of launching a
national show will probably make accomplishing
that difficult.

Bethenny, which features reality
star and Skinnygirl Cocktails founder
Bethenny Frankel, will premiere on
Fox stations in 17 markets, including
WNYW New York, KTTV Los Angeles,
WTXF Philadelphia, KDFW Dallas,
KSAZ Phoenix and KMSP Minneapolis.
The show will be produced by Telepictures
Productions, the first-run production
arm of Warner Bros. Television, and
Ellen DeGeneres’ production company,
A Very Good Production.

“Warner Bros. really approached
the Bethenny test like winners,” said
Frank Cicha, senior VP of programming
for Fox Television Stations. “What
that means is that they didn’t pull any
punches as far as the show’s production
went. We’ve done tests in the past
where you don’t go as far as you might
if you were producing a regular series.
But even though Warner Bros. had the
benefit of Ellen’s production staff and
Ellen’s stage, they still pushed it as far as
they could. They treated this as if it was
a national launch from day one, and the
show reflected that.”

“This summer’s test proved Bethenny
has a distinctive and unique appeal that
women flock to,” Ken Werner, president
of Warner Bros. Domestic Television
Distribution, said in a statement.
“No matter the time period or city, with
no off-air support, and in the middle
of the summer, daytime viewers made
Bethenny Frankel appointment TV.”

While Warner Bros. was forced to
test Bethenny over the summer after it
couldn’t get the show sold into national
syndication in fall 2011, the test worked
out in Warner Bros.’ favor. Bethenny improved
on May 2012 time periods in its
six markets by 80% among daytime’s
key demographic of women 25-54. Fox
is looking for the show to turn in that
kind of performance once it’s up and
airing on the national stage.

Warner Bros. is now out selling Bethenny
to other stations across the country, from
traditional affiliates to independents.

Meanwhile, Fox also is looking at other
options to fill its stations’ daytime hours.
On Monday, Oct. 1, the stations will
start airing TMZ Live, a spinoff of Warner
Bros.’ TMZ, in five more markets.

The Fox stations started airing TMZ
, which features TMZ executive producer
Harvey Levin chit-chatting with
his producers and reporters about the
news of the day, on KTTV Los Angeles at
3 p.m. on March 12. In June, Fox added
KSAZ Phoenix to TMZ Live’s roster. TMZ
got its start as a Web-only production,
airing on sites such as Ustream.

Meanwhile, like the Raycom, Scripps
and Meredith station groups, Tribune
is also attempting to develop programming
in-house in order to limit its dependence
on syndicators.

Last week, Tribune shot a court show
pilot starring popular syndicated radio
personality Lionel—a.k.a. Michael William
Lebron—who is a trial lawyer by
trade. Lionel has been delivering radio
commentary on Tribune’s WPIX New
York since 2010.

The show, which is in very early development,
is intended to complement
Tribune’s block of conflict talkers as well
as its court shows, including Warner
Bros.’ Judge Mathis and People’s Court, in
some markets.

Last year, Tribune launched its own
conflict talker, Bill Cunningham, which
now airs on The CW network at 3 p.m.
in most markets. Tribune also is working
with CBS Television Distribution to
launch a new version of Arsenio Hall,
which will premiere next fall in late night.

The Lionel pilot is being produced
out of Chicago by ITV Studios America,
which also produces Cunningham,
Raycom’s America Now and Fox’s Hell’s
. Tribune has not found a distributor
for Lionel yet, but it’s still very
early in the process.

Lionel, 54, appears on WPIX’s morning
show as well as its 5 and 10 p.m.
newscasts. Prior to joining WPIX, The
Lionel Show
was nationally syndicated
on the WOR Radio Network, originating
from WOR 710 AM New York. Starting
in May 2007, Lionel hosted a daily
three-hour talk show on Air America
Radio, which went off the air in January
2010. He got his start as a drive-time
radio host in Florida, after his years as
an attorney.

Finally, according to several sources,
Sony Pictures Television is continuing to
shop its new talker, Queen Latifah, to TV
station groups for what is already shaping
up to be a busy fall 2013 launch.

E-mail comments to
and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA