While there are few syndicated launches slated for fall 2003, 2004 already is hopping. Coming next year is Twentieth's still untitled show with American Idol star Ryan Seacrest, NBC Enterprises' The Jane Pauley Show and Paramount's The Insider. Sony still plans to go ahead with eBayTV, and last week the syndicator announced that veteran sportscaster Ahmad Rashad would join Molly Pesce to host the program.
"It's rare you see shows being set so early for the next year," says one syndication executive. "That implies that this fall's casualty rate is expected to be higher than usual when you have stations agreeing to clear new shows and buy replacement shows before this fall's shows have even gotten to air."
Of course, there's a lot that's being talked about, too. As for development, King World is talking about doing a pop culture/variety strip that would be executive produced by pop star Britney Spears. Sources say the market appears hungry for that kind of young, hip show, especially now that the off-net sitcom pipeline has slowed to a trickle. Universal is talking with Linda Lopez, sister of J. Lo, about a show, and Sony is developing a younger, edgier version of ABC's The View with E! Entertainment hostess Jules Asner and other personalities.
Back to reality.
While Pauley's clearances are just getting going—NBC has New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle and Washington signed on so far—The Insider already is cleared in 78% of the country and Ryan Seacrest is cleared in 80%.
When Paramount was considering launching The Insider, a spin-off of Entertainment Tonight, it saw that CBS stations in fall 2004 would have a need in access because King World's Hollywood Squares wasn't performing as well as the station group would have liked. Paramount announced the show early this year with seven CBS owned-and-operated stations already signed on.
Sony's eBayTV is cleared on stations from the Viacom, Gannett, Belo, Raycom, Clear Channel, Pegasus, Media General, Cox, Capitol Broadcasting, White Knight, Emmis, Evening Post, Quorum, Grant and GoCom Media station groups. So far, Sony still has not secured one major launch group for the show.
As for Ryan Seacrest, stations have snapped up the show quickly, with some markets seeing bidding wars for the strip.
"There's demand from the station community for Ryan," says Paul Franklin, executive vice president and general sales manager for Twentieth Television. "If they had their druthers they would love to have the show right now. The guy is a hot commodity and TV stations have been all over this."
And NBC Enterprises hopes it will have a show to rival King World's Oprah and Dr. Phil in Jane Pauley.
"The first rule in daytime is that you want the viewer to connect with your host and I think there is a tremendous connection with Jane Pauley," says Linda Finnell, senior vice president of programming for NBC Enterprises.