Although the future of The Oprah Winfrey Show was
again called into question, a slew of renewals for other shows made
syndication's lineup for 2011 and beyond a lot clearer. CBS Television
Distribution's Dr. Phil; NBC Universal's Maury, Jerry Springer
and Steve Wilkos; and Warner Bros.' Jeanine Pirro all secured
significant renewal deals.
Dr. Phil has been renewed through 2014 in 70% of the
country, on stations from the CBS, Gannett, Belo, LIN Television, Cox and Media
General groups. The Tribune stations renewed NBCU's trio of talkers groupwide
through 2012. Tribune also picked up Warner Bros.' strips Jeanine Pirro,
Judge Mathis, People's Court and TMZ, and weekly hour This Old
House on several stations through 2012.
The future of CTD's Oprah, however, was less certain.
Deadline Hollywood Daily's Nikki Finke reported on Nov. 5 that Winfrey would shutter
her syndicated talk show when its contract expires in August 2011 and move it
to OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, her new cable venture with Discovery
Communications. Discovery Chief David Zaslav said the same a year ago during an
Oprah's departure would leave a big hole for
syndicators to fill in the afternoon, but last week's renewals mean that 2011
is going to be far less of an open market than had been predicted. Like Oprah,
Dr. Phil has garnered some of the highest license fees in syndication,
and whether CTD was going to be able to secure renewals for it had been an open
CTD executives say they were able to devise some creative
deal-making to boost the appeal of bringing back Dr. Phil for all
involved, including host and executive producer Dr. Phil McGraw.
"I am delighted that the Dr. Phil family of stations
believes in and has made such a long-term commitment to what we are doing,"
McGraw says. "The commitment they have made to carry our show until 2014
inspires us even more to provide them with the ‘Gold Standard' in
programming-programming they will continue to be proud to broadcast."
"All of these stations really want us to understand their
business and be sympathetic to their needs," says John Nogawski, CTD's
president. "We structured the license fees so that they made more sense to [the
stations] than if they didn't do the deal."
Neither CTD nor stations would reveal the deal's terms, but
it certainly involves reductions in license fees. "I prefer having our shows
renewed for the long term even if there's less money attached," says Joe
DiSalvo, CTD's president of domestic TV sales.
"It made sense for us to do this deal for all the right
reasons," says Dennis Williamson, Belo's executive VP and CFO. "We felt that Dr.
Phil was going to continue to be a foundation show for our stations in the
At presstime, Winfrey's status officially remained the same:
No decision has been made yet, according to statements issued Nov. 5 by her
production company, Harpo, as well as OWN and CTD. Even if Winfrey decides to
stick with syndication after 2011-a decision that would not be unprecedented,
as she has said twice before that she would leave and then reupped-CTD might
not remain the show's distributor. After the death of King World chief Roger
King in 2007, Winfrey's loyalties have not remained with CTD, the company that
absorbed King World. Harpo's latest syndication spinoff, Dr. Oz, is
distributed by Sony.
Whether or not Tribune would bring back the NBCU talkers had
also been a matter of debate. The station group was acquired by real estate
mogul Sam Zell in 2007, and with that acquisition came a new leadership team looking
to shake things up. But with the economy in the tank and new syndicated shows
tough to launch, Tribune decided it made the most sense to stick with the devil
"You look at these [NBCU] shows' ratings and they are
holding up," says Sean Compton, Tribune's senior VP of programming and
entertainment. "When it's a tough economy like this one and automotive
[advertising] has pulled out of the market, direct-response [advertising] is
not a bad thing. These shows sell very well for our group. I don't want to be
the idiot to go out and find the next 0.5-rated show. I hate to use the term
‘if it isn't broke, don't fix it,' but that applies here. Largely because of
these shows, we are not struggling in daytime."