Drew Barrymore, Nick Cannon Bring the Party to NATPE

Another year of big stars makes syndication feel like the place to be in 2020
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What hypes everyone up before they head to NATPE Miami is having a real-life movie star in the mix, and that is what syndication will get with the arrival of Drew Barrymore this fall. But two stars are better than one, and multi-hyphenate Nick Cannon also is joining the daytime party.

Drew Barrymore will bring her Hollywood star power to CBS’s new 2020 offering.

Drew Barrymore will bring her Hollywood star power to CBS’s new 2020 offering.

When CBS Television Distribution announced it would do a talk show starring Barrymore, the media took notice. Barrymore is a movie star — starting with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and moving through films like Scream, The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates — whom everyone feels like they grew up with. In 2000, she kicked serious ass in a remake of Charlie’s Angels, one of many movies she produced through her company, Flower Films.

More recently, she has executive produced and starred as Timothy Olyphant’s bloodthirsty zombie wife in Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet. She also has her own lifestyle brand, Flower, with several lines available in retail chains such as Walmart and CVS.

That kind of longevity and brand power is a valuable commodity in the cluttered environment of daytime TV, where these days it’s hard to tear people away from their phones, much less get them to tune into a program at a regular day and time. So when CBS Television Distribution had the opportunity to get into business with a household name, the company jumped on it.

“The need in the marketplace aligns with who Drew is: She is the OG optimist,” CBS Television Distribution executive VP, development Elaine Bauer Brooks said. “I think the marketplace needs an uplifting, fun, escapist kind of show that isn’t saccharine, but has a comedic edge.”

It’s not Barrymore’s first go-round in syndication. In 2016, Warner Bros. tried to sell a talker starring Barrymore that would serve as a lead-in to Ellen DeGeneres, whose team would have executive produced the show. But NBCUniversal instead chose to renew Steve Harvey’s talker after it migrated to Los Angeles. That meant Warner Bros. couldn’t find time slots on major-market stations.

Barrymore didn’t lose hope, though. “I love this saying that I have on a neon sign in my entryway: ‘Timing is Everything,' ” she said. “Sometimes things are seeds being planted and when they don’t manifest, we tend to take that as a failure or a missed opportunity. But I have learned that nothing is for naught — something will come around and that time and education and investment will pay off somewhere else later.”

And she was right. In 2019, CBS decided Barrymore was the person they wanted to take a chance on. “This was a year we felt we wanted to take a big swing and we found a person we believed in enough to do that,” Bauer Brooks said. “This show is a natural extension of who we are as a company.”

Barrymore, 44, is a single mother of two. “I have had to figure out my whole life in front of everyone,” she said. “I have had to learn in the last decade how to truly take care of myself. Then I had two girls, and I had to learn what it’s like to truly take care of others. I am throwing an all-ages party and everyone’s invited. That’s how I’ve made movies and how I’ve built the companies I have.”

Bauer Brooks said the show will be authentic to who Barrymore is. “It will include some celebrity, lifestyle, pop culture and humor,” she said. “I can’t wait to tackle all of that with Drew. The audience said it best after watching the pilot: it’s like going to a fun party and coming home with a new best friend.”

Fox to Launch Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon adds a syndicated talker for Debmar-Mercury.

Nick Cannon adds a syndicated talker for Debmar-Mercury.

Meanwhile, Fox will be debuting a talk show starring another celebrity who has lived much of his life in the spotlight: Nick Cannon, who hosts such shows as The Masked Singer on Fox and sketch comedy series Wild ’N Out on MTV, which has become a touring live show and a chain of restaurants. Cannon is friends with daytime talk-show host Wendy Williams, so when she needed guest hosts to fill in for her last February, he was happy to oblige. Hosting three shows, he looked extremely comfortable and grabbed some attention for his performance.

“Nick is really creative and really smart but he also understands the business of television,” said Ira Bernstein, co-president of Lionsgate-owned Debmar-Mercury, which is producing and distributing the show. Debmar-Mercury tends to test its shows first and then take them nationwide. But in the case of Cannon, they felt at ease with skipping that step.

“Nick is so successful in all the things he’s doing, plus he was so great when he hosted Wendy,” added Mort Marcus, co-president, Debmar-Mercury. “We were taken aback in a good way. We felt in this particular case he had already been tested.”

This fall, Debmar-Mercury will have its hands full. Besides launching Cannon’s show, it’s debuting Pop TV’s Schitt’s Creek in off-network syndication and this year’s entertainment magazine test, Central Ave, as a first-run one-hour series for weekends. For Cannon, starring in his own talk show will mean staying in one place — probably New York City — for a while, and he seems fine with that.

“I don’t feel like this is settling down,” Cannon said. “Finally, I’ll get a central hub for all of the things I do.”

Like Barrymore, Cannon plans to make his show a fun place to hang out. “This is a show about good times and escapism,” he said. “I want to inspire an audience and let them get to know me in a fun and intimate way. I have studied everyone from the greats, like Merv and Oprah, and people who are doing a great job in the space right now, like Ellen and Wendy. I want to tap into that and bring my comedy, fun and knowledge of pop culture.”

Sony Fills Plate With ‘The Good Dish’

A third show in the marketplace is Sony Pictures Television’s The Good Dish, which stars Daphne Oz, Gail Simmons, Vanessa Williams and Jamika Pessoa, and will lure viewers in with the promise of food and fun.

(From l.): Daphne Oz, Vanessa Williams, Gail Simmons and Jamika Pessoa will serve up food and fun in "Dr. Oz" spinoff "The Good Dish".

(From l.): Daphne Oz, Vanessa Williams, Gail Simmons and Jamika Pessoa will serve up food and fun in "Dr. Oz" spinoff "The Good Dish".

The Good Dish started as a regular segment on SPT’s Dr. Oz, with Dr. Mehmet Oz’s daughter, Daphne, serving as chef and host after her food-focused show on ABC, The Chew, came to an end. “Every time we’ve done a cooking segment on Dr. Oz, our digital traffic goes through the roof, to the point where it was speaking to us,” John Weiser, president of first run television at SPT, said. “Our audience was flat-out telling us that there is a huge appetite for a cooking show, and so we listened to the feedback and started airing The Dish on Oz to test talent and different segment ideas.”

According to executive producer Amy Chiaro and co-executive producer Stacy Rader, they sought women who “represented everybody,” but all of them have one thing in common: a passion for food and cooking. “We started this because we felt like there was a void in the marketplace,” Chiaro said. “We want this to feel like your all-encompassing guide to what’s for dinner tonight. At the end of the day, we all have to answer that question.”

The Good Dish, which SPT plans to shoot on Dr. Oz’s stage in New York, plans to lean heavily on digital and social media to engage the audience with recipes and shopping lists.

While all three shows offer fresh new hosts and fun ideas, the challenge syndicators face this year is clearing new shows across the entire country.

That’s because most of this year’s freshman crop has secured second seasons. None of the renewed rookies are particularly high-rated, with NBCUniversal’s Kelly Clarkson averaging a 1.4 live plus same day household average, according to Nielsen, Disney’s Tamron Hall a 1.0 and CTD’s 25 Words or Less (produced by Fox) a 0.9. Overall, syndicators are having to do much more with less because ratings across linear television continue to fall as the move toward streaming and on-demand continues to rise.

SPT also is working hard to bring back self-help series Mel Robbins, even though the show is only averaging a 0.4. Offering some hope is that Nexstar Media Group recently upgraded the show in some key markets, including moving it to 4 p.m. on KTLA Los Angeles, so the ratings could tick up in the new year.

NBCUniversal also expects to bring back Judge Jerry, starring Jerry Springer. Not returning for season two is SPT’s off-GSN America Says, although SPT has some other game shows in development.

What all those renewals mean is that it’s a little harder for shows in this year’s crop to secure a firm go for fall 2020. Both Drew and Nick were announced with launch groups — Drew on CBS Television Stations and Nick on Fox Television Stations — but nothing more has been announced for any of the three shows since their initial releases.

Still, with their big-market groups established, Drew Barrymore and Nick Cannon, at least, are almost guaranteed to go forward, while SPT is having to work a little harder to find launch partners. Behind the scenes, though, all of the distributors say they have deals cooking and expect clearances to be announced — if not at NATPE, then in the coming weeks.

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