Only three rookies can be considered successful this season: Warner Bros.’ Two and a Half Men, Twentieth’s Family Guy and Warner Bros.’ TMZ, according to Katz Television Group’s annual pre-National Association of Television Program Executives show programming report.
“Given the disappointment of years past, reasoned anticipation greeted the launch of two key sitcoms into syndication. In the end, that caution was unnecessary, given the early results for this fall,” said Bill Carroll, Katz’s vice president of programming.
Coming up, Katz is enthusiastic about two new off-net sitcoms: Debmar-Mercury’s House of Payne, premiering on stations next fall, and CBS’ Everybody Hates Chris, debuting in fall 2009. Katz sees the terms of CBS’ deal as particularly attractive because it only runs for three years, as opposed to remaining open-ended as long as the program is on the air, and CBS is being flexible as to when stations can run the show.
NBC Universal’s The Office and My Name Is Earl both are coming to syndication, as well, with The Office cleared for fall 2009 and Earl still unclear. Both shows will first air on TBS, making them less attractive to stations, Carroll said.
Other than the sitcoms, only TMZ is a stand-out performer, said Anthony Spirito, director of programming for Katz TV Group.
“Much of the alternative programming previewed last year and launched this season didn’t have the hoped-for ratings impact,” Spirito added.
Talk is a particularly challenging area, Katz noted, with only three shows launched in the past three seasons remaining on air: CBS’ Rachael Ray, Warner Bros.’ Tyra Banks and NBCU’s Martha Stewart, which also can be considered a how-to or variety show.
While Katz recommended both Warner Bros.’ The Bonnie Hunt Show, especially when paired with Warner Bros.’ Ellen, and CBS’ The Doctors, the company warned that both shows could have a tough time earning ratings because they are both cleared in highly competitive daytime slots in major markets.
Katz looks at cable networks and even online sites as viable sources of programming for stations.
“Regardless of overall performance, the pipeline of alternatively sourced content for broadcast syndication keeps growing each year. With dozens of cable channels now producing original programming and a burgeoning content engine called the Web, this pipeline will continue to grow more vibrant in the future,” Spirito said.
Coming off-cable offerings Katz pointed to are Sony’s Rescue Me and Warner Bros.’ The Closer for weekend runs. Rescue Me could be available as early as this fall, while The Closer is offered for 2009.
Katz also recommended that stations pick up CSI: New York, opening this fall, and that they reup CSI: Miami, which CBS is offering for another two years instead of giving it exclusively to cable as it did with CSI.