L.A. Berth Pains

Buena Vista can’t be sure where Danza will run

Lightning has stuck twice for Janice Marinelli, president of Disney’s Buena Vista Television.

Eighteen years ago, BVT rolled out a talk show with Regis Philbin using a very unusual sales strategy: launch it in the graveyard shift on KABC Los Angeles and without a clearance in Chicago.

The idea then was to take low-visibility late-night slots in the very top markets rather than throw a new show to the wolves in daytime, where it would be left to fend off hungry competitors. The syndicator supplemented the chat show’s distribution list with daytime clearances on solid affiliates in other markets.

Marinelli figured she would try the same approach this season with The Tony Danza Show: “As opposed to putting it on in daytime on L.A. and Chicago stations, where the odds were stacked against it,” she explains, “our theory was that, in success, we would find solid time periods for it.”

Danza launched this past September in what many considered to be overnight death slots on ABC stations KABC and WLS Chicago, neither of which had other time periods available. BVT, meanwhile, found room for it at 10 a.m. on WABC New York and in other top markets.

Success seems to have struck again, and Danza became the only freshman strip to earn a second-season renewal for 2005-06.

Now new obstacles have emerged. Marinelli has once again turned her attention to Los Angeles, where Danza could face some grim news this fall when it moves into high-profile time periods on either of Viacom’s Los Angeles duopoly stations, KCBS or KCAL (as well as a noon berth on NBC’s WMAQ in Chicago).

Marinelli says KCBS could decide to air Danza at 9 a.m. in the slot being vacated by Larry Elder, putting it directly in the path of its dominant corporate cousin, Live With Regis and Kelly, on KABC. “That would not be the optimum scenario for us,” she admits, adding optimistically that it wouldn’t be terrible to have the network’s morning news program as a lead-in.

KCBS/KCAL is remaining mum, but market sources say KCBS may choose to take another path. It could fill the 9 a.m. hour with second runs of Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, Who Wants To Be a Millionaire and Family Feud or additional runs of Judge Judy.

Danza could also wind up on KCAL, most likely mornings at 8, 9 or 11 a.m. or at 5 p.m. following what may be a new 4:00 newscast. Even in that enviable earl- fringe time period, however, Danza would face stiff competition. Los Angeles continues to be the wild card for a talk show that will need to succeed for Buena Vista next season in two crucial markets—regardless of the odds.