Will 'Deal' Launch In Syndication?

Fall '08 debut is a possibility
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Deal or No Deal, one of this year's most anticipated first-run candidates, could launch in syndication during the 2008-09 season but will bypass this week's National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) confab, according to those close to the talks.

Buzz continued to persist last week that syndicator NBC Universal might drop a bombshell by announcing Deal at NATPE, even after word leaked that it was in talks with Tribune about rolling out a fall talk show with Jerry Springer bodyguard Steve Wilkos (Broadcastingcable.com, 1/10).

While NBCU has remained quiet about its intentions, people familiar with the discussions say NBC and Deal producer Endemol USA appear reluctant to over-expose the hit game show as early as this fall, since it already runs multiple times per week on the network.

The principals are all committed to an eventual syndication launch in the next year or two but think this fall is too early. Although a syndicated Deal could probably get plenty of takers immediately, given a lack of other high-profile first-run projects energizing the market this year, the most important consideration is “preserving the asset in the right way,” one person says.

Whenever the game show's network ratings cool a bit and it gets the greenlight for syndication—hopefully avoiding the plunge that ABC's Who Wants To Be a Millionaire took before going on to achieve syndication success years later—the next big decision will hinge on whether to bring it out in fall or midseason.

The downside to a fall launch, insiders say, would be marketing the new first-run version just as NBC is bringing back the network game from its summer rest.

Conversely, a midseason first-run premiere could cause some to wonder why Deal wasn't important enough to bring out in the fall.

Springer Spinoff

Meanwhile, NBCU's Wilkos project is also said to have generated interest from the Sinclair stations. The syndicator has been out shopping a lengthy sales-presentation tape of the Chicago-cop-turned-Springer bouncer, who has often guest-hosted. Wilkos' “goodwill” shows have included his removing teen prostitutes from brothels.

A Wilkos talker could be done more cheaply than recent high-profile talk failures like Jane Pauley and Megan Mullally, since their variety talk formats can cost in the mid to high six figures per week.

NBCU could attain other cost benefits by sharing studio space and crew with Springer at NBC's WMAQ building in Chicago, which would keep the extra production revenue in-house.

As for Tribune, it has struggled over the years to find an upscale show to put into its daytime rotation that would work with Springer and Maury. The current occupant, Sony's low-rated Greg Behrendt, could find life elsewhere.

From D.A. to Judge

Warner Bros. is said to be considering former Westchester County (N.Y.) District Attorney Jeanine Pirro as a judge for its proposed Celebrity Jury court show, which is being shopped along with a TMZ celebrity-gossip magazine program. The Fox stations are considering both, and an announcement could come this week.

Neither Warner Bros. nor NBCU would comment on their development plans.


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?