First-Run Strikeout for 2017?

No new show launches, lots of questions as NATPE approaches
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The new TV season is well under way, and with NATPE just over three months off, industry insiders are starting to wonder what—if anything—new will be on offer in syndication for 2017 at the annual conference.

NATPE is no longer necessarily the place where studios’ new shows for TV stations are announced. But in the past few years, the major shows for the following season were already well known by this point.

“It’s late for the past five years, but not late for prior years,” says Bill Carroll, senior VP and director, content strategy, Katz Television Group.

This year, there are thus far no specifics on 2017 launches and lots of questions.

While there’s nothing firm in the market, several possibilities have been floated. CBS Television Distribution remains out there with magazine entry The Daily Mail, which is being produced in a partnership between Dr. Phil and Jay McGraw’s Stage 29 Productions and The Daily Mail. The show also was being offered last year, but no one picked it up.

Last March, it was confirmed that Missoula, Mont.–based Warm Springs was producing a court show starring former Republican vice presidential nominee and Alaska governor Sarah Palin, but there hasn’t been any movement on that project.

The Fox Owned Television Stations group tested six shows over the summer—and plan to do that many or more next summer—but there’s been no news on whether any of those programs will go forward. Of the six that aired, the two most likely to be picked up for ’17 seem to be Page Six TV and Top 30.

Page Six TV, which draws on talent and content from the New York Post’s famous gossip page, is produced by Endemol Shine North America. While expanding the Page Six brand, part of the News Corp./21st Century Fox corporate family, makes sense for Fox, the show is said to be expensive enough to produce that it would need to be cleared nationally—rather than doing a slow rollout on select stations, for example—in order to go forward. That could be a hard hurdle to clear.

Top 30, which is produced by the Fox Television Stations and features quick takes on the day’s top 30 stories, is far less expensive to produce but it proved less popular in its summer test. Still, that show could be offered as an all-barter property and wouldn’t necessarily have to be cleared nationally to go forward, much like the Fox station group’s current Hollywood Today Live, which also airs on Media General-owned stations.

Other studios likely have shows in the works, but nothing has been announced yet.

Meanwhile, stations are likely to have holes in their schedules come next fall. Since they are not hearing much of anything from studios about new projects, station executives are starting to make their own plans.

“In the absence of something else, all of the stations groups are saying, ‘We have to do something,’” says a syndication executive.

Station groups have been trying to produce their own shows for several years now, with little success. This year’s entry, Tegna’s T.D. Jakes, isn’t cleared nationally and so far is underperforming on the mostly Tegna-owned stations on which it airs. And because Tegna is having to almost solely fund it, it’s more expensive for the station group than a show of similar quality produced by a studio.

Another question is whether NBCUniversal’s Harry will make it to a second season. The show, although it opened as the highest-rated talk premiere in three years, is soft in the ratings considering that it airs at key 4 p.m. time periods in big markets.

In the week ended Oct. 2, Harry showed some growth, improving 8% for the week to a 1.3 live-plus-same-day national household rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. The show is expensive to produce, so both NBCUniversal and the Fox owned stations, which air the program in the country’s biggest markets, need to see its ratings remain on the upswing in order to bring it back next year.

Another show at risk of not returning is NBCU’s Steve Harvey. The talk show was renewed on stations through this TV season, but talks on renewing Harvey’s talent contract have stalled.

Making those talks tougher is the fact that NBCowned stations moved the show to less-viewed 2 p.m. slots from 3 p.m., and the move seems to be having a negative effect on its ratings. In the week ended Oct. 2, Steve Harvey fell 6% for the week and year to a 1.6 live-plus-same-day national household rating. While that number is high enough to justify keeping the show on the air, it’s probably not high enough to either justify giving the host a significant raise or to move the show to more expensive Los Angeles, as Harvey is said to want.

Still, while there are skeptics, Carroll expects this scenario to change for the better before NATPE in January. “By the time we get to NATPE, I think we’ll see several [new offerings],” says Carroll. “I think it’s logical, given where the opportunities might come, that there will be attempts at something new.”

The new TV season is well under way, and with NATPE just over three months off, industry insiders are starting to wonder what—if anything—new will be on offer in syndication for 2017 at the annual conference.

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