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King World OKs Production on Ray - Broadcasting & Cable

King World OKs Production on Ray

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The Oprah Winfrey stamp of approval has led King World to quickly secure two-year deals for Food Network’s Rachael Ray, whose new fall 2006 daytime lifestyle show has cleared more than 70% of the country in just one month.

After getting all top-25 markets and 46 of the top 50, King World has provided a production commitment to the tentatively titled The Rachael Ray Show.

Cleared once a day, mostly in the mornings, it could be upgraded to afternoon early fringe periods in season two. Ray already has afternoon berths for year one in markets such as Miami, Sacramento, Cleveland and Orlando.

King World CEO Roger King says only the syndicator’s own Dr. Phil, airing mostly in early fringe, scored higher license fees (estimated to be far north of $1 million per week) than Ray for a daytime show when it debuted in 2002.  In addition to license fees, King World has carved out 3½  minutes of national advertising time.

The Viacom, ABC and Fox stations all made multiple bids for the show in New York and Philadelphia after King turned down a group offer from King World’s sister Viacom stations. King says the market by market approach, which resulted in deals with all three top-market station groups, resulted in a bigger overall payday.

Other stations belonging to Gannett, Post-Newsweek, Media General, Cox, Meredith, Hearst-Argyle, Belo, Scripps Howard and LIN were also on the clearance list.  

“The demand for this show is unbelievable,” King says. “To have this much of the country cleared in just a few weeks is a testament to the tremendous talent and popularity of Rachael Ray.”

He also credits his sales team for top-market clearances, which include WABC New York, KCBS Los Angeles, WBBM Chicago, WPVI Philadelphia, WBZ Boston, KPIX San Francisco, KTVT Dallas/Ft. Worth, WTTG Washington, D.C., WXIA Atlanta and KPRC Houston.

While King World is spearheading production, Winfrey’s Harpo Productions, Food Network-owner Scripps Networks and Ray’s Watch Entertainment will also be involved with ownership stakes. As with Dr. Phil, King says there are provisions in Ray’s contracts prohibiting stations from airing her directly against Oprah, in part, “because we don’t want to get creamed.”

Ray’s thriving career as a TV host, author and running her own magazine, means she will appear with Winfrey “five-eight times” this season to gain exposure, King says.

A Thanksgiving-timed appearance by Ray on Oprah attracted that show’s highest ratings of the November sweeps. Meanwhile, her multiple Food Network series have grown by a combined million viewers this season.

King thinks Ray will defy conventional industry wisdom today that a 2 rating is the benchmark for success. That thinking “can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he says.

Programmers, he has long maintained, should strive for a 3.5 to 4 household daytime rating nationally, even in this environment. That would put Ray in the same league with Live With Regis & Kelly. King expects the new show, which was closing in on a show runner last week to gear up for the long pre-production period ahead, to skew younger than Regis.

While King says “down the road anything is possible,” initially King World will not offer product integration opportunities to advertisers or repurpose Ray on cable, including Food Network. It has traditionally avoided that model with Oprah (except for the after-show edition on Oxygen) and Dr. Phil. But neither of those has a cable network with an ownership interest in it.

Putting the shows on multiple platforms, at least immediately, “is a stupid way of doing things,” King says. “You want to make people watch it where it is (on a broadcast station).”

King would consider doing prime time network Ray specials in the future, similar to what CBS does now with Dr. Phil. But for now his primary focus is “to build this into a franchise that will last for at least 10 or 15 years.”

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