Upstarts Eye NATPE Stage

Conference turns to NASCAR, Naked News
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With so little new first-run programming on the docket for fall 2007, the chatter leading up to the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) conference, Jan. 15-18 in Las Vegas, is more about what may not be around by September. While CBS Paramount's Rachael Ray will return, it is the lone member of the 2006 rookie talk-show class to be confident about its position. On the bubble are Sony's Greg Behrendt and Telepictures' Dr. Keith Ablow. NBC Universal's Megan Mullally, meanwhile, was not renewed for season two.

Major syndicators have announced only two new shows for the fall: Sony's Judge David Young and Twentieth Television's Morning Show With Mike and Juliet. The industry is hoping for greenlights for a slew of other programs, mostly in the game and court genres.

But even if a game of musical chairs at the station level doesn't spontaneously erupt at the conference—as it did last year when news of the merging of The WB and UPN broke—there is still plenty of entertaining programming to be found at NATPE. Digging a little deeper than the big syndicators reveals a batch of shows that aren't for everybody but target a specific niche and are willing to have a little fun along the way.

While Warner Bros. decides whether to go ahead with a newsmagazine version of its celebrity-driven Website, that's not the only notable warts-and-all news programming looking to make the jump to television from the Web. Behr Entertainment has a late-night version of Naked News, the Internet news show on which anchors deliver the day's top stories while disrobing.

Tagged “All the news with nothing to hide,” the show has been on the Web since 1999. The TV version is available in a daily or weekly format, with newscasters of either gender. There is even a quick and clean version: a daily two-minute segment without nudity.

If that doesn't get syndicators' motors running, maybe NASCAR will. Auto racing will be in full gear at NATPE, including 3 Wide Life. Produced by Leverage Sports Entertainment and distributed by Coyote TV, the show is for the hard-core NASCAR fan. It has already been cleared in 11 markets on White­knight Broadcasting and Communication Corp. of America stations in the NASCAR-friendly Southeast.

3 Wide Life has a national focus, reporting on auto racing's top domestic circuit, but it is also being pitched with opportunities for local inserts to drive regional buys. While the title refers to three cars racing side-by-side, a situation that often leads to the wrecks that make for great highlights, the 26 half-hour episodes are being sold as family-friendly.

“We are excited to discover first-run, FCC-friendly programming and offer it to our audience,” says Whiteknight Broadcasting and Communication Corp. of America programming executive Jamie Quebedeaux.

While NASCAR's fan base numbers well into the millions, there will also be programming at NATPE targeting niches with much smaller—yet equally rabid—followings. For instance, the University of California-San Diego's School of Medicine has produced 15 half-hour episodes of People & Pets, in which two doctors focus on the commonality between humans and their animal sidekicks. The shows look at common diseases and the treatments available both to you and Fido.

In case you don't subscribe to the Water Channel—and yes, there really is a Water Channel—on the market at NATPE will be 39 half-hour epi­sodes of Latitudes & Attitudes, based on a popular sailing magazine.

Among the personalities on Latitudes is a man with a name that many NATPE attendees can relate to: Bob Bitchin.