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In Tight Field, Syndicators Jostle for Slots

With lots of recent sales, stations, valuing stability, consider options 10/31/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

With the recent slew of syndication
sales, time slots are becoming scarce, and
that leaves syndicators intensely courting
the NBC and Fox station groups to secure space.

In the past two weeks, NBCUniversal sold Steve
Harvey
to its own station group, and Sinclair acquired
NBCU’s Maury spinoff, Trisha Goddard. Disney/ABC
also announced its first round of sales for Katie Couric,
moving that show past the 60% clearance mark. Finally,
Debmar-Mercury renewed Wendy Williams on
the Fox stations through 2014.

“With viewers, audiences and affiliate stations
embracing Wendy more than ever, we believe that
the franchise is still poised for additional growth,”
Mort Marcus, Debmar-Mercury copresident, said in
a statement.

In top markets, only NBC and Fox have room for
more shows. The other three “gatekeeper” groups—
ABC, CBS and Tribune—are currently full.

These recent deals indicate that station groups are
seeking more control over their daytime destinies,
and are thus willing to sign long-term contracts to keep the syndicated
shows they like.

“There’s something to be said for stability in time periods,” said one
station-group executive.

“Healthy syndicators mean more shows for us, so I’m willing to work
with them to keep them healthy,” added a station programmer.

Stability is why Fox wants to keep Wendy Williams. Across the Fox
group, Wendy is frequently the highest-performing daytime show among
the key women 25-54 demographic.

TV stations also know that daytime viewers are creatures of habit—note
Judge Judy’s chart-topping numbers—so they would prefer to keep shows
and let them grow rather than constantly swapping them out in the risky
search of something better.

That’s why Debmar-Mercury’s Jeremy Kyle, Warner Bros.’ Anderson and
Tribune’s Bill Cunningham may all remain on the air, and why the new
shows—CBS Television Distribution’s Jeff Probst, Warner Bros.’ Bethenny
Frankel
and Twentieth’s Ricki Lake—are still seeking slots. In today’s lowrated
daytime environment, station groups know there’s no guarantee the
next new show will earn a higher number.

That said, NBC and Fox still need shows, so executives at those groups
are fielding a lot of phone calls.

“That’s the nature of the beast when there are 10 other people out there
who want the time period,” said the station group executive.

NBC already has filled one of its slots with Steve Harvey. Whether NBC
will keep Sony’s Nate Berkus remains a big question, and the group still
has another season on its contract with Sony. NBC is expected to keep its
slow rollout Access Hollywood Live.

NBC is not expected, however, to retain Entertainment Studios’ We
the People With Gloria Allred
, which airs on seven of the 10 NBC owned
stations. While the show is up 17% on WNBC New York compared to
last year’s The Daily Connection, and flat on KXAS Dallas, We the People is
down significantly on NBC’s other five owned stations compared to last
year’s now-cancelled Real Housewives.

As for Fox, sources say the group likes both Jeremy Kyle and Anderson
Cooper
creatively—and Anderson is doubling ratings for Fox in Los Angeles
and Boston—so it’s very possible Fox will keep that show. However,
Anderson is challenged in New York, where it’s not performing well on
Tribune’s WPIX. If Warner Bros.’ can’t keep Anderson on the air in New
York, Fox might not have the option of keeping it.

NBCU’s Trisha Goddard is in a similar situation. No obvious buyer is appearing
for the show in the top markets. NBCU could take Trisha forward
without a national clearance, but that means it sacrifices national barter
advertising sales, and it’s hard to make that economic equation work.

Still, many programmers prefer to see how their shows perform in the
November sweeps, so eager syndicators have to cool their heels for a few
more weeks. “It’s absurd to make decisions on anything before November,”
said the station executive.

E-mail comments to palbiniak@gmail.com
and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA

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