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Good morning. It’s Wednesday, December 14, 2011, and this is your 2011-2012 Syndication Marketplace special edition, coming to you just about 5 weeks prior to NATPE 2012.
SYNDICATION UPFRONT: It’s an Overhaul Kind of Year
By Daisy Whitney
Eeny, meeny, miny mo. Pick a talk show by the toe.
Four new talk shows are coming into the syndicated marketplace for fall 2012 with programs helmed by Katie Couric, Jeff Probst, Ricki Lake and Steve Harvey. Add in the renewal of Anderson Cooper’s talker and the Jeremy Kyle show for second season and the TV business is facing an embarrassment of riches. Could it be the renaissance of the talk show genre?
Maybe. But the plethora of product stems from several concurrent events. Syndication just went through its first full fall without Oprah as the beachhead, and emerged relatively unscathed, though the Nate Berkus Show is one of the casualties as its producers announced last Friday its run would end in May. Some shows rose in ratings, and some fell, but all in all the market has remained steady enough. Add to the mix the exit of soap operas All My Children and One Life to Live from their afternoon time slots in January, as well as Regis Philbin’s recent departure from daytime, and syndication has the making for an overhaul kind of year.
That’s why so many studios and distributors are sending new shows out to battle. As the TV business heads to NATPE in Miami next month, the buzz will surely center on who will be the winners and the losers from the bumper crop of 2012.
To date, all the talk shows are earning good clearances. There is less off-network fare entering the market this year, but already Twentieth Television’s Modern Family is fully sold for the 2013 season, buoyed by its massive ratings and two Emmy wins. Also on the sitcom front, NBCUniversal Cable & New Media Sales Distribution is selling Parks and Recreation to basic cable and new media platforms.
Stations like having so many options, whether in the form of sitcoms or the range of new talkers. But perhaps one of the most promising aspects of the crop of new shows is so many studios are involved — CBS Television Distribution claims Jeff Probst, Disney-ABC Domestic Television has Katie Couric, Twentieth Television is home to Ricki Lake, NBC Universal has Steve Harvey, Warner Bros Domestic TV Distribution comes to market again with a slightly tweaked version of Anderson, while Deb-Mar Mercury returns with Jeremy Kyle. What’s more, Sony Pictures Television will make its talk show bet in 2013 with a Queen Latifah daytime show.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen this kind of mix and it’s refreshing,” said Emerson Coleman Vice President, Programming for Hearst Television. His group has acquired a mix of talk shows for its 29 stations, and chooses amongst the offerings based on the best fit for the market, availability of product and time slot, and the group dynamic. “If you make the right decision it can become a long term franchise and hopefully you can hold onto it,” Coleman said.
The market is also hungry for new programming in general, given the shifts the syndication business has experienced, said Paul Franklin, EVP & General Sales Manager for Broadcast at Twentieth Television. “A successful talk show can be extremely lucrative for the talent, the distributors and the TV stations. Oprah going away has sparked some of this but it appears daytime is up for grabs with Regis gone and soaps going away. There is unrest in daytime. It’s going to create a buzz and energy in the genre.”
Twentieth is hoping to create buzz around Ricki Lake’s return to syndication. She fronted a successful talk show for 11 years and is now heading back to daytime, being recast in this iteration as “America’s girlfriend,” as Twentieth plays up her working mom sensibility. Twentieth Television has cleared Ricki Lake in 80% of the country including stations owned by Tribune, Fox, CBS, Lin, Newport, Raycom, Capitol and others.
Then there’s Jeff Probst’s new daytime vehicle, and he brings an enviable track record as the host of Survivor. CBS has sold the show to the NBC-owned stations as well as to CBS, Gannett, Post-Newsweek, Belo, Cox and others and is cleared in more than 70% of the market, including 22 of the top 25 markets. “Jeff’s not a journalist, doctor, therapist or lawyer, so he’ll bring a different perspective to the daytime audience than what’s currently on the air. He’s relatable to every audience segment,” said John Nogawski, president of CBS Television Distribution.
NBC Universal is offering Steve Harvey, the talk show led by the Family Feud host that is sold in 80% of the country to groups including the NBC-owned group, Cox, Gannett, Fox, CBS, Hearst and Sinclair. “Steve Harvey is a proven ratings winner in syndication and his comedic approach to very relatable topics like marriage, dating, parenting and the workplace, will resonate with the daytime audience,” said Barry Wallach, President of NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution.
Disney-ABC Domestic Television is making a big play with Katie Couric’s talk show. Many see her as the heir apparent to Oprah Winfrey, but there are questions surrounding whether Couric can parlay the feel-good Katie of the Today years rather than the hard news Katie viewers might be less fond of. The show has been cleared in more than 80% of the country, including across the ABC-owned stations, as well as Meredith, Media General, and Sinclair stations.
Anderson returns for a second season cleared in nearly 90% of the country, most recently by Allbritton. The Fox TV station group has renewed the show on incumbents from season one and added others for season two, including the NY station, a big win for Warner Bros Domestic TV Distribution. “Anderson is remarkably well known, well liked and talented.We are finding the right voice and point of view for daytime.It takes a certain amount of time and energy for all first year show to hit their stride,” said Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros Domestic TV Distribution.
Meanwhile, Debmar-Mercury has renewed The Jeremy Kyle Show for a second season and it’s sold in more than 70% of the country for 2012. The only challenge with so many new shows, is there may be more product than there are time periods, said Mort Marcus, Co-President of Debmar-Mercury. The situation is akin to an election year with a few strong candidates — the risk is the vote gets split too much and there aren’t any clear victors.
But that’s a good spot to be in. Ratings and revenue are strong for many shows. As examples, Warner Bros’ Big Bang Theory launched in strip this fall and is earning monster numbers. Debmar-Mercury’s The Wendy Williams Show, currently in its third season, is aiming for the black next year. “Wendy Williams took a while to hits its stride but there is a legitimate show at being profitable next year,” Marcus said.
Overall, syndication saw eight talk shows increase their ratings in 25 to 54 demographic this fall, said Mitch Burg, President of the Syndicated Network Television Association. They are The Doctors, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Ellen, Jerry Springer, Live with Kelly and Steve Wilkos. Then there are syndicated sitcoms that continue to deliver better than the average rating for primetime sitcoms and they include Big Bang Theory, Two and Half Men, Family Guy and How I Met Your Mother, Burg said.
With ratings like these, it’s good to be a seller. With the choices coming to market, it’s good to be a buyer.
Daisy Whitney for Cynopsis Media
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