Proven Talent, New Opportunities
Given the inability of many newcomers to crack the market in recent years, producers and distributors this time around are opting for talent that runs both deep and wide in recognition.
For example, RuPaul Charles’ new daytime series RuPaul, produced by Warner Bros. Television’s syndicated arm Telepictures, this summer will get a three-week test run on Fox-owned stations before any commitments are made. While Charles’ VH1 series is a ratings magnet for that network, the move is a sign of market that wants talent with a broad track record, according to Schulman. “One of the reasons RuPaul didn’t necessarily go forward is that the show isn’t a known quantity, and people are sticking with what they are comfortable with,” she says.
In its survey of local viewers last winter of new syndicated concepts, Schulman says The Kelly Clarkson Show landed at the top of the list. Also testing well was 25 Words of Less, the game show hosted by Meredith Vieira (former host of who Wants To Be a Millionaire) and distributed by Twentieth Television. “Some people are definitely interested in game formats,” she says.
NBCU Television Distribution is banking on the popularity of music artist and TV personality Clarkson. “She is someone America picked on American Idol – she’s a connector – and they’ve stayed with her all these years,” Wilson notes, adding viewers will also catch Clarkson performing on the show. “It would feel strange not to have her perform. We’ll use music when it’s appropriate.”
As Jerry Springer’s talk show winds down after 27 years, the company also hopes fans will join him in the courtroom, a ratings-strong genre with shows like Judge Judy and Hot Bench. “We really loved being in business with Jerry Springer, and it was a internal conversation. ‘Jerry’s a lawyer, what about a judge show?’ From that conversation we put it into development the next day, and we did a pilot very shortly after,” says Wilson.
Sony Pictures Television, home of Dr. Oz, The Goldbergs and Seinfeld, is betting on The 5 Second Rule author Mel Robbins with the new Mel Robbins Show, slated to bow September 16. “Mel is extremely accomplished and extremely relatable – a powerful combination. She’s carved out a career as a motivational speaker and life coach,” says Stuart Zimmerman, EVP, advertiser sales. “Daytime television lacks a woman speaking to women. Mel fills that void.”
Also running with a name personality is Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International, home to Live With Kelly and Ryan among syndicated properties, and which recently annexed the Fox portfolio including Modern Family, Last Man Standing and Bob’s Burgers. “We’re super excited about the launch of Tamron Hall. She resonates with audiences and is fantastic,” says Rita Ferro, president of Disney advertising sales, of the series starring the former NBC News anchor and set to premiere September 9. “Especially when you see how hot the television market is overall, syndication is a great place for advertisers to be.”
With Page Six and Steve Harvey’s show nearing the end of their runs, Endemol North America is thinking big with two series it’s shopping around. The company is bringing its international game show format The Money Drop, currently on a hot streak in the UK, to the US – and signed on Michael Strahan to host. “When buyers get this pitch, they have knowledge of previous ratings,” Weinberg says. “And we produce the show all over the world and know how to do it successfully, efficiently, effectively.” (Fun fact: Weinberg says Strahan was in the UK for the royal wedding last May, happened to catch the show on TV there and approached the company about coming onboard.)
Endemol also is partnering with Essence Communications, which aside from its publishing domain also hosts the annual Essence Fest and Black Women in Hollywood, to build a panel talk show. “The thing we loved about Steve [Harvey] is he had a really clear and defined voice, and we are thrilled with the Essence voice, especially for the daytime audience,” Weinberg says. “The audience is already built in and we can continue to grow it.”
Another publisher new on the syndicated scene, Meredith Corp. hopes to parlay People readers into a TV audience for its show, launching in fall 2020, slated to feature entertainment news, interviews, features, beauty and crime. The show is produced by its in-house production shingle, Four M Studios. Meredith currently airs the 30-minute weekend show People Now Weekend, which will continue to run after the daily show arrives.
“We tested People Now Weekend and have had great success on the Meredith local stations, so a syndicated daily series was clearly the logical next step,” says Bruce Gersh, president of People, Entertainment Weekly and Four M Studios, who notes the series has a greater scope than the existing Hollywood-centric magazine show fare. “The show will be much more than entertainment news, and will include all the franchises in the magazine, including cover stories, true crime, human interest, food, beauty and style.”