NBCU's New 'Deal'

Primetime hit adds daytime version for '08

NBC Universal's Deal or No Deal is officially a go for syndication in the fall of 2008, with the company clearing the show on nine out of 10 of its owned-and-operated stations as well as stations in the CBS, E.W. Scripps, Allbritton and Sinclair broadcast groups.

Howie Mandel will host both the syndicated strip and the primetime version, making it the only game show to hit syndication while still airing on the network. NBC Universal hopes that three years of primetime exposure will make the show a sure-fire hit in syndication.

“We've had a very good reaction to Deal around the country,” says Barry Wallach, president, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. “Deal or No Deal is really a first-run off-network show, and that doesn't exist anymore. You have a proven show with the same host, the same set, the same models, the same banker, going into daytime. It's the exact same production, so TV stations know what they are buying and viewers know what they are getting.”

Deal or No Deal's entry into syndication has been expected since the show became a hit on NBC's primetime schedule. The game show was fourth-rated NBC's most watched program last year, averaging 15 million viewers per telecast, according to Nielsen. It also was NBC.com's biggest draw, attracting nearly 20% of the Website's visitors.

The show, which is produced by British producer Endemol, debuted in the Netherlands in 2002 and was sold in more than 80 countries.

The deal largely settles the NBCU station group's syndication needs for next year, although the fates of the revamped In the Loop with iVillage and Program Partners' Merv Griffin's Crosswords are far from assured. Two weeks ago, the group picked up Warner Bros.' The Bonnie Hunt Show for two years, assuming the show succeeds. It also extended Warner Bros.' Ellen and Extra through 2011 and 2012, respectively.

John Wallace, president of NBC Television Stations, says that syndicators had better be particularly mindful of the balance between the cost and the quality of a program, especially those slotted for airing in the challenging daytime hours.

“In particular, Deal or No Deal is a great example of that philosophy,” he says. “The quality is there and the economics are there, too. Going forward, we're going to continue to focus on a syndication model that presents the right blend of both.”

Better Daytime Performance

Industry executives say the NBC stations are anxious to improve their daytime performances, which have been falling behind the ABC and CBS groups for several years. The group is targeting women 25-54, with the new fourth hour of the Today show focused on women-friendly topics such as child-raising, weight loss and fashion. By adding Bonnie Hunt and extending Ellen—a show that appeals to a more upscale daytime demographic—NBC hopes to keep the daytime audience from changing channels.

Meanwhile, NBCU's syndication arm is having some success with The Steve Wilkos Show, introduced as a companion to the company's Jerry Springer and Maury. Wilkos is holding or improving on its lead-in and year-ago time period averages, making it a modest success, although its national household average is low at 0.9. Wilkos also is financially attractive for NBCU, because it's produced in Chicago and shares staff with Springer, from which it was spun off.