Last-Minute Moves in Syndie

Squares is squashed; Tribune and Universal offer Home Delivery; On Air With Ryan Seacrest has a slow start

Last week, on the eve of NATPE, the shape of the fall 2004 syndication market became much clearer. Universal and Tribune selected a first-run show to launch; Twentieth's On Air With Ryan Seacrest
premiered; some shows were canceled (including Hollywood Squares), or others found themselves teetering on the edge.

First off, Universal Domestic Television, Tribune Television and Tribune Entertainment announced that they will launch lifestyle show Home Delivery
in fall 2004.

"By marrying successful elements of daytime talk with the enormously popular lifestyle format," said UDT President Steve Rosenberg, "we believe we have created a concept that will break through with viewers and give a new look to stories that have traditionally worked well in daytime."

The show will be cleared on Tribune's station group covering 40% of the country. It's launching as part of a development and distribution partnership the two companies announced in June 2002. Universal will handle station sales, and Tribune will sell national advertising time, on a cash-plus-barter basis.

Home Delivery
will be executive-produced by Denise Cramsey, once of TLC's Trading Spaces. Universal also has another first-run offering, a talk show executive-produced by Jennifer Lopez and featuring her sister, Lynda. But it still has no station launch group.

On Air With Ryan Seacrest
debuted Monday, Jan. 12 and, through last Wednesday, had averaged a 1.4 rating/3 share, according to Nielsen's overnight ratings. That's a 26% drop from the show's average lead-in and a 44% drop from year-ago time-period performance.

On Fox's owned-and-operated stations, which will determine On Air's fate, the show still has a lot of growing to do. After three days last week, On Air
was underperforming both the year-ago time-period average of 2.9 rating/6 share and its average lead-in of 2.3/5.

"Ryan went into old-skewing time periods and still did a 1.5/3 [last Monday]," says Twentieth Television President Bob Cook. "I'm starting to feel pretty darn good about the fact that, if we stay the course with this show and continue to get reasonable bookings, this show will do well."

On Air
will get an additional promotional bump from today's launch of Fox's American Idol, also hosted by Seacrest, not to mention ratings-boosting guest appearances from up-and-coming American Idol

As On Air
gets started and Universal and Tribune prepare to launch Home Delivery, several veteran syndies are going off the air. King World's Hollywood Squares
has not been renewed, and the Viacom Station Group chose not to pick up Sony's Pyramid
for a third season. That means that Sony will have to scramble to find some new station homes if the game show is to stay on the air.

Sony's Ricki Lake
and Warner Bros.'The Sharon Osbourne Show
also are on the bubble. Industry sources say Ricki
is unlikely to come back and a decision about Sharon
still is being negotiated with the Tribune stations, the show' launch group.

King World's low-rated Living It Up! With Ali & Jack
is not going off the air imminently, the syndicator said, but the show has hired Maureen FitzPatrick as executive producer, replacing Bruce McKay. King World also has hired a new supervising producer, Cordelia Bowe.