As NATPE Nears, Few New Programs On the Horizon

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Twentieth Television late last week appeared closer to greenlighting FremantleMedia's first-run game show Temptations. It's targeted for a fall 2007 launch on Fox and other stations.

Beyond that and a handful of other products on display at next week's National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) confab, there are not many new shows in the pipeline, making this another year of slim pickings for first-run syndication.

Twentieth has been developing a number of game formats for daytime, including Granada's Catch Phrase and Connections and FremantleMedia's revival of Match Game.

There was also mounting speculation that Warner Bros.' proposed celebrity-gossip magazine series, based on its Website, will gain clearance on the Fox stations. Its chances of finding a toehold multiplied last week when Fox ceased production on Twentieth Tele­vision's Geraldo at Large, leaving holes in its early- and late-fringe time slots.

The show generated a 1.6 rating average. Host Geraldo Rivera will get a weekend show on Fox News Channel.

Warner Bros. has also been in negotiations with Fox about a celebrity-jury series. That's expected to proceed regardless of whether Fox takes it, since the show has already generated a decent station lineup elsewhere.

On the game front, it seems unlikely that CBS' syndication wing will bring out The Joker's Wild and Combination Lock at NATPE. The problem: Inadequate deals and time slots in big markets.

NBC Universal is also said to be unable to work a deal with Howie Mandel to host a syndicated version of the hit game show Deal or No Deal. NBCU is dissatisfied with other host candidates, so the show's prospects appear dicey.

That non-deal could open up some afternoon real estate on NBC stations for another game show, and one is likely to be announced at NATPE. Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! creator Merv Griffin, is shopping a format.

Deal was the logical replacement for the cancelled NBCU rookie talk show Megan Mullally, which the syndicator nixed last week after sinking $750,000 a week into it.

At a 0.8 national rating season-to-date, the talk show faced more time-period downgrades, forcing NBCU to pull it from the air at the end of January. It was offering double runs of Access Hollywood, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, iVillage and Starting Over to fill time.

With Mullally gone, Twentieth TV is now peddling The Morning Show With Mike and Juliet, which debuts Jan. 22 on Fox stations. It was intended for a national rollout in the fall, but now Twentieth will make it available to non–NBC-owned TV stations that had carried Megan.

Meanwhile, Sony appears determined to keep its freshman talker Greg Behrendt alive with or without partner Tribune, which is on the market. Fox may need it as a replacement if Warner Bros. cancels rookie Dr. Keith Ablow.


Syndication and NATPE

The first-run syndication business is broken. Stations blame syndicators for ignoring their needs. Syndicators stay stations won't invest in their shows. As talk shows tank, studios turn to cheaper game and court shows. With January's NATPE confab just around the corner, can the system be fixed?