Syndicated Series’ Fall Strategy: No False Moves

'The Meredith Vieira Show' and 'The Real' plan to get real, and stay there, this fall
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The key words for syndication this fall are authenticity, interactivity and fun. Both NBCUniversal’s The Meredith Vieira Show and Warner Bros.’ The Real—fall’s two major daytime entries—are about keeping their audiences entertained. And if viewers pick up some information along the way, all the better.

“I use that word authenticity,” Vieira said last week during a session at the Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., explaining what she thinks has been the key to her long TV success.

“People can smell a fake a mile away,” Vieira said. “They want real and they want to connect with somebody. That’s how significant daytime TV is to the viewers. People feel that connective tissue that they don’t feel at other times of the day.

“I also know syndication is hard. I know what it is to launch a show in syndication. If this show fails, I’m not going to die,” said the veteran of programs including 60 Minutes, The View, Today and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Each episode of Meredith will start off with Vieira holding an off-the-cuff chat with viewers in a segment called “The List.” Within that format, she’ll take on the day’s events, much like Live With Kelly and Michael’s banter, Wendy Williams’ Hot Topics or Ellen’s monologue.

And even though the show bears her name, she’ll never be alone up there, she says. Band leader Everett Bradley of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and four female band members, as well as announcer and close friend John Harris also will be on stage, giving her some banter buddies. The set-up is much like The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon, which tapes just down the hall at 30 Rockefeller Center in studio 6B.

“There’s so many crazy-looking people walking those halls, and we’ll drag them in,” Vieira joked. And NBC’s ability to serve as a one-stop for celebrities on promotional tours can only help with bookings.

The series will include some game elements, considering that executive producer Rich Sirop did those same duties for Disney-ABC Television’s Millionaire for 11 years.

“Meredith likes stuff like that—giveaways with the audience and bringing the audience up on stage,” said Sirop. “Games will definitely play a part in our show.”

The ‘Real’ World

For the ladies of The Real—Adrienne Bailon, Tamar Braxton, Tamara Mowry-Housley, Loni Love and Jeannie Mai—it’s just about living up to the show’s title.

“For me, it takes a lot of courage to be real. Whether it’s good or bad, the fact that I’m willing to share it with someone takes a lot of courage,” Bailon said during another panel session at TCA.

“The show reminds me of a huge girl chat in which you don’t censor yourself. It’s like a live Cosmopolitan magazine,” added Mowry-Housley.

Both Meredith Vieira and The Real are cleared in most of the country for their September premieres. The NBC-owned stations will serve as Meredith’s key station group, while the Fox-owned stations, which tested The Real last summer, will launch that show.

FOX’S HOMEGROWN TESTS START SLOW

The Fox-owned stations last week launched two strip tests—Hollywood Today Live and The Daily Helpline—to low ratings. After two days, Hollywood Today Live averaged a 0.5 rating/2 share in the metered markets on nine Fox stations, a decline of 50% from its lead-ins and 29% from the same time periods last year. Still, the show, which premiered online last November at bitesizetv.com, grew 25% from a 0.4 to a second-day 0.5.

Hollywood Today Live airs in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Detroit, Phoenix, Minneapolis and Charlotte. The show is hosted by Kristen Brockman, AJ Gibson, Tanner Thomason and Porscha Coleman.

Things were bleaker for The Daily Helpline, an advice program hosted by Miles Adcox and Spirit. Over its first two days in nine Fox markets, it averaged a 0.1/0, down 66% from lead-in and 80% from year-ago time periods. The Daily Helpline airs in the same Fox markets as HTL, except it’s on in Austin instead of Detroit.

Fox plans to launch one more test this summer, Laughs, a weekly show premiering Aug. 2 that will air mostly on Fox duopolies in weekend late-night time slots.

The key words for syndication this fall are authenticity, interactivity and fun. Both NBCUniversal’s The Meredith Vieira Show and Warner Bros.’ The Real—fall’s two major daytime entries—are about keeping their audiences entertained. And if viewers pick up some information along the way, all the better.

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