In Depth

New Syndie Shows: It’s Who Knows You

Notoriety Pays; Telepictures Signs Deen Deal

Programming for the 2009 syndication development season is already turning out to be more about faces than show formats.

The growing list of recognizable names with programs in the works includes Marie Osmond and Dr. Oz. Telepictures, Warner Bros.’ production arm, is adding to that roster by signing a deal with Food Network star Paula Deen to host a daytime cooking show, sources familiar with the matter said.

Ms. Deen would become the next big name to come out of Food Network, following Rachael Ray’s ratings success in her debut season. Ms. Deen is currently one of Food Network’s top draws with her Southern flair, hosting series “Paula’s Home Cooking” and “Paula’s Party” for the cable channel.

Ms. Deen has raised her profile with appearances on “Oprah” and a line of cookbooks: “Paula Deen and Friends: Living It Up, Southern Style,” “The Lady & Sons Savannah Country Cookbook” and others.

“It seems like, unlike recent years, distributors are taking a particularly aggressive look at 2009 and going back to developing around marquee names,” said Bill Carroll, senior VP and director of programming at Katz Media. “When you look at the most recent successful entry into the talk show ranks in Rachael Ray, it makes sense to turn to someone with the appeal of Paula Deen for a show of her own.”

A Telepictures spokesperson declined to comment on the company’s development slate.

Oz Factor

The celebrity names attached to syndication projects in the works for the 2009-10 season suggest that the studios are once again opening their pocketbooks for development in daytime.

Beyond Ms. Deen’s project and Ms. Osmond’s talk show from distributor Program Partners, there’s a Donald Trump program from Twentieth Television, a daytime version of “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” with Jeff Foxworthy (from either Twentieth or Debmar-Mercury), and “Oprah” spinoff “Dr. Oz,” backed by Harpo Productions.

Ratings in recent years have shown that series featuring widely known names are more likely to score higher when they hit syndication. The risk for syndicators is that the costs involved in scoring names can make any failures financially disastrous. A well-known name can potentially cost a syndicator $8 million per year or more in talent budget alone.

Moreover, a big name doesn’t guarantee big ratings, as failed talk-shows starring Tony Danza, Jane Pauley and Megan Mullally in recent years will attest.

The “Dr. Oz” project has caused a stir around the industry as the series (so far) will be sold without Ms. Winfrey’s distributor, CBS Television Distribution, attached to the project.

In fact, sources close to the show say Twentieth and ABC/Disney were among the syndicators that the producers have taken meetings with regarding distribution of. If the project moves forward, it could pose direct competition with CBS’ Dr. Phil spinoff, “The Doctors,” which will launch this fall.

However, “Dr. Phil” was also shopped to multiple companies, which is allowed under Ms. Winfrey’s contract with CBS, before the program settled in with the distributor in the end.

Another recent acquisition by Ms. Winfrey, a talk show with host Kirstie Alley, is now expected to be targeted for Ms. Winfrey’s upcoming cable channel, which will take the place of Discovery Health.

Dr. Oz joined Oprah Winfrey as a regular contributor to her Oprah & Friends XM Satellite Radio channel on Sept. 25, 2006, and has been a regular contributor to her daytime talk show in addition to appearing on a number of Discovery Health programs.