Syndicators See Opportunity In New ABC Time SlotsWith addition of Couric, field for 2012 already looks crowded and competitive 6/13/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern
Katie Couric won’t be the only beneficiary
of the new time slot that ABC is giving back
to its affiliates to accommodate Couric’s new
daytime talk show in 2012. Rival syndicators are already
circling the hour.
“There are no guarantees that ABC affiliates will
necessarily pick up the Katie Couric project,” says Bill
Carroll, vice president, programming, Katz Television
Group Programming. “When you give back an hour,
that’s exactly what you are doing, giving it back. I’m
sure all of the ABC affiliates will seriously look at the
program, but that’s not necessarily their only option.
I would have to assume other syndicators will be out
there making offerings with that time period in mind.”
That assumption is correct. “Just because a contract
is signed and in the door doesn’t mean you can’t make
a better deal,” says one syndicator. “Just because a show
is locked up until 2015, doesn’t mean I still wouldn’t
work hard if I thought I could steal that slot. If I could
upgrade a time period and get more money, I’d do it
in a heartbeat.”
ABC already has committed to giving the 3 p.m. time
slot on its eight owned stations in New York, Los Angeles,
Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston,
Raleigh/Durham, N.C., and Fresno, Calif., to Couric’s
talker. But it’s doubtful that every ABC affiliate will
make the same move. ABC affiliates owned by other
station groups—such as Hearst’s WCVB Boston or Belo’s
WFAA Dallas—will have the option to upgrade a
show that they own, acquire something else, expand
their local news or produce an original local program.
Back at January’s annual NATPE convention in Miami,
syndicators agreed it was time to take some big
swings. This is the year that Oprah Winfrey ended her
talk show, leaving a big hole in daytime TV. Meanwhile,
TV-station revenue is on the rise, the automotive industry
is making a comeback, stations are starting to reap
the benefits of drastically increased retransmission-consent
fees and a competitive presidential election year is
on the horizon.
It’s into that upwardly-mobile environment that
Couric is headed, and she is certainly the biggest name
to take on daytime since perhaps Dr. Phil successfully
spun out of Oprah in 2002. But the TV landscape that
Couric faces is much more fragmented
than the one Phil McGraw walked into
10 years ago. And syndicators are lining
up competitors to take on the former
anchor of the CBS Evening News.
This fall, Warner Bros. will launch
Anderson, featuring CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. Warner
Bros. has secured strong time periods for the show
but only signed stations to one-year deals, so Anderson’s
renewal will entirely depend on performance. Debmar-
Mercury is bringing out British talk show host Jeremy Kyle,
who is unknown in the U.S. but a proven performer in
the U.K., with 1,000-plus episodes already under his belt.
Other first-run shows joining the syndication lineup
are CBS Television Distribution’s Excused, Tribune’s Bill
Cunningham (in select markets) and Entertainment Studios’
Who Wants to Date a Comedian. Warner Bros. is
launching Dr. Drew’s Lifechangers with Dr. Drew Pinsky
on the CW, a show that could move into syndication
after a year or two on the network.
The field in 2011 is considered to be relatively weak,
but those deals are done. Now all eyes have turned to
2012, when Couric will debut. Twentieth is marketing
the return of Ricki Lake, who did a talk show produced
by Sony from 1993 to 2004 and is now a divorced
mother with new perspective to offer.
“You can compare it to the high-brow exclusive country
club versus the public pool,” says one syndicator.
“[Executive producer Jeff] Zucker and Katie have spent a
lot of time getting what they want and doing it at a high
level. They are the country club people. Ricki feels more
at home being at that local pool with the regular people.”
Debmar-Mercury this summer is testing a talk show
with Episcopalian priest and Spanish-language talk
show host Father Albert Cutie, while Warner Bros.’
subsidiary, Telepictures, is developing a talk show with
Bravo network personality Bethenny Frankel.
That’s likely to be just the beginning of a busy development
season for 2012, when even more time periods
could open up. Anderson is not guaranteed a second
season, while both CTD’s Swift Justice—which just announced
it will switch from Nancy Grace to Jackie Glass
in season two—and Sony’s Nate Berkus will come to the
end of their two-year terms in spring 2012. Both shows
will have to demonstrate dramatically improved ratings
to get renewed.