Make way for the new

Syndicated shows Talk or Walk, Ananda and Iyanla lock up time slots as low-rated rookies are likely to get bumped

There's good news for syndicated strips
Talk or Walk

, which have locked up key clearances in several top markets for 2001. But that's bad news for other first-run shows, especially certain low-rated ones slotted in the same daytime periods that next year's programs want for themselves.

Some morning and early afternoon shows will probably be bumped to make room for the three new hour-long talkers from Tribune, King World and Buena Vista, respectively.

from Paramount and
The Other View

from NBC may also be doing some bumping, but they have not yet been officially announced. The most vulnerable targets are the rookie strips, none of which tracked above a 2.0 weighted metered-market average during last month's sweeps (according to Nielsen Media Research for the period Nov. 1-27).

"Shows that have daytime clearances, including some of the new talk and court shows are on the bubble," says Katz TV's Bill Carroll. "It's fair to say that many of the new shows, are having a tough time [with ratings] this year. And stations have to be looking for potential replacements."

Although stations and studios determine ad rates by national household and demographic ratings (both of which will be available in December), November's metered-market results, covering 60% of the country, do offer a hint of the way things are heading.

In the following sampling of metered-market performances last month by the mostly daytime freshman strips, all are off from 1999's comparable average for their time period: leader
Power of Attorney

1.9 rating/6 share (-27%);
Judge Hatchett

1.7/5 (-23%);
Curtis Court

-which moved into
Dr. Laura
's afternoon homes when many stations shuffled her to late, late night-1.4/5 (-13%);
To Tell the Truth

1.2/4 (-25%);
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

1.1/4 (-31%);

1.0/3 (-41%); and
Moral Court

0.9/3 (-18%).

Stations are going to have a hard time, though, figuring out which shows will have to go. Normally, rookies' fates are decided right after the November sweeps, but the presidential-election saga, which interrupted shows and siphoned off syndicated viewers to cable-news alternatives, will prevent stations from getting a good read on how shows are doing.

"There are six normal days out of the entire November book," says King World Executive Vice President of Research Moira Coffey. "I'm extraordinarily concerned about anyone's using this book as a reference point to judge shows." Her advice? "The dust will have settled by December, so my recommendation is to give shows another book."

Other factors also come into play in studios' and stations' decisions to renew programs, weighing heavier on syndicators' minds than ratings: "leverage of other products, relationships, needs," notes Blair Television Vice President of Programming Garnett Losak.

"Most things aren't renewable based totally on their own merits," Losak explains, adding that Twentieth Television's
Power of Attorney

(which is tracking above a 2.0 in the national household ratings) is a shoo-in for another season, because it's paired in most markets with hit
Divorce Court

Also, observes another source, "Stu Billet [producer of
Moral Court

People's Court
] has a lot of clout in the business. Will his shows come back? You can bet on it."

Some studios invest too much of themselves to automatically throw in the towel on struggling offerings.

Says Steve Mosko, chief of
Mars, Venus

distributor Columbia TriStar Television Distribution, "We spend lots of money creating programs, our salesmen spend 52 weeks selling, so we are committed to our shows."

One can always have fun guessing, of course, where some of the new guys will land.

"We can put on our Sherlock Holmes hat, and [claim] we've figured it out," says one syndication source. "
? That'll be in
's time period on CBS O&Os [both shows are from Paramount]. The NBC project [
The Other View
]? That's [headed for]
Mars, Venus'

NBC O&O-skewing home.
Talk or Walk

will go in for one of the court shows."

It's still premature for studios to announce show renewals, but, "if a show is a big hit, a syndicator immediately goes into the marketplace to renew it," adds the source. "No one that I'm aware of is aggressively renewing their shows."

Among the freshmen strips, sources say,
Arrest & Trial
, scheduled primarily in access, is set for another season;
Power of Attorney

is nearing new deals; and
Judge Hatchett

should be cleared for next year. Officially, no studio has announced second-season pickups.