Mandel Takes Day Job
NBC Universal Locks Up Host for Syndicated Game Show
Howie Mandel has decided to "Deal."
The longtime comedian and host of NBC's prime-time hit "Deal or No Deal" has agreed to a contract with NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution to host the upcoming syndicated edition of the game show. The new version is devised as a Monday-through-Friday daytime strip.
With Mr. Mandel on board, the show is now slated to launch in fall 2008.
The distributor and Mr. Mandel had previously see-sawed back and forth in negotiations. In recent weeks, the two sides reached an agreement that would pay Mr. Mandel "several million dollars a year" to add the series to his resume, sources close to the deal said. It is not yet decided whether the syndicated version of show will be a half-hour or an hour in duration.
The upcoming series likely will be shot at the same set as NBC's prime-time version of the show, and executive-produced by Scott St. John, who also serves as showrunner for the network version of the series, the production sources said. In addition, most of the same prime-time production team would remain for the syndicated strip. The syndicated version will not affect Mr. Mandel's hosting duties on the prime-time version of the show.
For NBC Universal, the deal represents a coup. "Deal or No Deal" ranked as one of the network's biggest hits this season and will come to syndication pre-branded and with a household name at the helm. These two elements have the ability to drive up interest and dollars from stations.
This is especially important for the syndicator, as it has struggled launching some of its series in recent years, including last fall's short-lived "The Megan Mullally Show."
The company is poised to debut "Jerry Springer" spin-off "The Steve Wilkos Show" this fall as well as the weekly movie review series "Reel Talk."
A spokesperson for NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution would not comment on development within the company.
Several other celebrities had been considered to host the daytime "Deal," including Arsenio Hall, Carson Daly and Mark Curry. However, NBC insiders said that executives felt that no one would represent the series as well as Mr. Mandel.
Spinning syndicated shows off prime-time game shows has a proven track record in relatively recent seasons. Among the success stories is "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" from Disney-ABC Domestic Television, which changed hosts from Regis Philbin to Meredith Vierra in the process. Also, NBC Universal distributed "The Weakest Link," swapping primetime host Anne Robinson out for syndication host George Gray.
The move won't be Mr. Mandel's first into the realm of syndication. He previously hosted his own syndicated talk show in 1998, "The Howie Mandel Show," and continues to be a mainstay on the talk-show circuit. He is represented by ICM.
He joins a growing list of high-profile performers contending for syndication debuts during the 2008-09 season. Bonnie Hunt signed a deal at Telepictures. Steve Harvey and Rosie O'Donnell also could land syndication deals for the season.
Given the high risk/high reward of launching first-run programs in syndication, distributors shied away from taking high-profile but expensive names for syndicated series for the upcoming fall season, choosing instead to take on cheaper formats such as Twentieth Television's game show "Temptation" and Telepictures' newsmagazine "TMZ."