Syndie 2011: Everything Old Is New Again

Off-net, off-cable, imports, spinoffs dominate offerings

Why This Matters

Post-‘Oprah’ Contenders

When Oprah Winfrey said in November 2009 that her daytime talker would end in September 2011, syndicators were off to the races.

The end of The Oprah Winfrey Show means that top time periods across the country are up for grabs, potentially initiating a round of musical time slots.

Already, Rosie O’Donnell has made it clear that she wants back in; former Warner Bros. honchos Dick Robertson and Scott Carlin are pitching her new daytime talker. Warner Bros. has at least two new shows in development:Lifechangers, starring Dr. Drew Pinsky, and a show featuring VH-1 dating guru Steve Ward.

And Trifecta Entertainment’s half-animated/half-live-action entertainment magazine Tooned In is “looking really good for 2011,” according to Trifecta CEO Hank Cohen.

Jay McGraw, executive producer of CTD’s The Doctors, continues to develop his new panel show, The Lawyers.
—Paige Albiniak

WITH 10 new syndicated shows on
the slate for fall 2011, TV stations
have the most new programs to
choose from since 2002, when distributors offered
11. Of course, the shows eight years ago
were all original first-run programs. This year,
most of the new shows have aired elsewhere.

McGrathOf the 10 shows on offer this fall, only two
are original: CBS Television Distribution’s Swift
Justice With Nancy Grace
and Sony’s Nate Berkus,
a spinoff of CTD’s Oprah.

While being new may give Grace and Berkus
an edge, coming to syndication with a track
record has its advantages. “Originals are what
everyone would like,” says Amy McMahon, associate
director and lead syndication negotiator
at Starcom USA. “But there’s also something to be
said for shows that are proven.”

Still, the two shows do come with a certain
level of awareness, featuring stars with strong
brands. Grace is a cable-news fixture; Berkus is an Oprah
regular.

Considering its Oprah-backed pedigree, Berkus is the
show considered most likely to succeed. “The challenge
Sony faces is that they went into the marketplace a little
later, so in some cases they didn’t get the time periods they
might have had they been out earlier,” says Bill Carroll, VP
of programming at Katz Media Group.

Grace also will premiere with high expectations. “It has CBS’
production team behind it, and has the added factor of a recognizable
name with a consistent following,” Carroll says.

Twentieth’s new game show, Don’t Forget the Lyrics!, comes to
syndication after a run on Fox prime. With clearances in syndication,
MyNetworkTV prime and cable, “Lyrics is a nice, safe
show,” McMahon says. “I don’t think it’s breaking the mold,
but it offers good integration opportunities for advertisers.”

Such pre-branding and multi-platform clearances
have become necessary in a new economic
environment that requires careful cost
management. That’s why three of syndication’s
new strips—NBC Universal’s Real Housewives,
MGM’s Cash Cab and Debmar-Mercury’s E! True
Hollywood Stories
—come to TV stations from
cable. Shows that have previously aired on
cable offer an inexpensive alternative because
their production costs were covered during
their cable run.

Similarly, Program Partners’ Canadian import
Steven and Chris is affordable because all of its
episodes have already been produced. NBC
Universal’s Access Hollywood Live is a spinoff of
the company’s veteran magazine, so producing
the show, which launches this fall on selected
NBC and Fox-owned stations, should incur
only incremental costs.

Court shows have remained popular because
they can be produced cheaply while still attracting
viewers. Entertainment Studios’ America’s
Court With Judge Ross
has a simultaneous run on
one of ES’ high-definition broadband networks.
Litton’s Judge Karen’s Court is a resurrection of
the show Sony produced two years ago.

There are many new offerings this year partly
because so many strips are ending. Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks
and Bonnie Hunt, and NBC Universal’s Martha Stewart and
Deal or No Deal all conclude their runs after this season. Litton’s
Street Court is also expected to depart.

And according to Trifecta Entertainment’s Hank Cohen,
Judge Heck, which would have starred Missouri federal judge
Tony Heckemeyer, is unlikely to launch.