With two major talk shows—Steve Harvey and Harry—expected to return next season, 2017 looks like another year without much new product for stations.
Syndicators considering new offerings are also facing a squeeze, as two of the shows from this year thought to be on the bubble are now expected to come back.
Changes at Harvey
After spending a year in negotiations, NBCUniversal’s The Steve Harvey Show will wrap its run in its current iteration at the end of this season and move from Chicago to Los Angeles. Endemol Shine will cease to be the show’s producer, with WME/IMG picking up that role. The new show will focus on celebrities, as opposed to the current iteration, which is more focused on everyday people.
While NBCU will no longer be a production partner on the show, it will distribute the new program for a fee and it will keep the show on its owned stations in its current time slots, usually at 2 p.m.
Meanwhile, NBCU produces Harry, starring Harry Connick Jr., which airs on Fox O&Os in top markets. In November and December, Harry was pushed back to 2 p.m. on WNYW New York, KTTV Los Angeles, WFLD Chicago and KTVU San Francisco. Fox and NBCU hope the move means less competition for Harry in those markets.
A Harried Future
Whether or not Harry will return for season two has not yet been decided, although most observers are betting it will be back. The show was originally launched with two-year deals, and Fox seems inclined to let it ride and see if ratings grow. But even if Harry does not return, sources say that Fox is not expected to pick up a new first-run show for 2017.
Still, Harry—which is produced at the CBS Broadcast Center in New York and includes Connick’s entire band—is expensive, and so far, it’s ratings aren’t justifying that cost. Two of Harry’s main champions at NBCU—Ted Harbert and Ed Swindler—have left the company, and the division now reports to Paul Telegdy, NBC alternative chief. The change was good for Harvey because he’s in business with NBC on primetime projects, such as the reality hit Little Big Shots, but it might work against Harry.
Assuming both shows remain on the air, however, it’s unlikely that Warner Bros. will be able to get its new talk show starring Drew Barrymore cleared for next fall, although the Hearst station group had already agreed to take the show. Warner Bros. was hoping to air Barrymore at 2 p.m. on NBC-owned stations and prepare it as an eventual replacement for Warner Bros.’ EllenDeGeneres, now in season 14.
But even if Warner Bros. can’t get Barrymore’s show launched, it could remain in consideration for 2018, depending on its host’s availability. It also could run as a test on Fox stations in the summer—a model the station group plans to continue—but Warner Bros. and Barrymore would need to be amenable to that plan. Warner Bros. in the past has tested several shows on Fox stations, including Bethenny and The Real. Bethenny fizzled, while The Real has survived for nearly four years.
Sticking With Syndie
In the face of all the headwinds, studios and distributors aren’t planning to exit syndication, even if it is much slower than it once was.
“Despite a tougher economic model, stations are always looking for the next big thing that could help define their lineups,” says one veteran exec. “If we believe we have the right personality or concept and the right time slots, we are willing to take a chance.”
There are other new first-run shows in the mix for 2017: Page Six TV from Endemol Shine and the Fox Television Stations, which Fox stations have already picked up; Top 30, which Fox picked up through the 2018-19 season and is selling in national syndication; and Daily Mail from executive producers Dr. Phil and Jay McGraw with CBS Television Distribution distributing, although that show was in the market last year and never found a launch group.
T.D Jakes, which is currently produced by Tegna and cleared on Tegna-owned stations and Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network, also is in the market looking for more clearances. Thus far, however, the market has been cool to the show, pointing at its less-than-stellar ratings.