Change of guard at `Ananda’

Oct 15, 2001  •  Post A Comment

David Armour, a veteran producer with experience on the “Ricki Lake,” “Queen Latifah” and “Montel Williams” talk shows, has been named executive producer of “The Ananda Lewis Show” as distributor King World Productions moves to refocus the freshman talker toward the younger adult female demographics.
In taking the reins of “Ananda,” Mr. Armour fills the show-runner slot being vacated by Jose Pretlow and Mary Duffy. Mr. Pretlow, who has being doing a bicoastal commute on the New York production of “Ananda,” is said by King World sources to have felt the stress of being away from his family in Los Angeles-particularly in light of travel warnings following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Ms. Duffy, who had been King World’s executive in charge of “Ananda’s” production, is being transferred back into the syndicator’s program development department.
“Jose Pretlow is a tremendous talent and we are appreciative of his efforts, but it came down to respecting his wishes and letting him out of his deal early to address family issues,” said Roger King, chairman and CEO of King World Productions and CBS Enterprises.
Mr. King cited the post-attack news coverage, which shifted the focus of “Ananda” to topics on its aftermath, and disruptive pre-emptions from local TV affiliates as adversely affecting the show’s early rating returns.
“We started on a Monday [Sept. 10] and then there was the World Trade Center bombing the next day, and everything had become a mess since then,” Mr. King said. “We tried to do topical programming dealing with the tragedy, with the show trying to reach women 25 to 54 and adults 18 to 49, but it just wasn’t working out. We just thought it was better to start with a clean slate and start over again.”
On that front, Mr. King said he looked to Mr. Armour’s producing background to play an integral role in redirecting “Ananda” toward decidedly youth-oriented formats. “David had an extensive career working the younger female demographics on shows like `Ricki Lake’ and `Montel Williams,’ which was also felt to be in line with Ananda’s sensibilities and personal tastes.”
Prior to joining “Ananda,” Mr. Armour most recently was executive producer and creator of the talk/game/reality show pilot “Put It to the Test,” and was creator of “Reality Check” for New Line Television. Mr. Armour’s other credits include serving as co-executive producer of “Queen Latifah,” where he worked under an overall development deal with Warner Bros.’ Telepictures syndication unit. Before that he was co-executive producer of Columbia TriStar’s “Ricki.”
With a new focus on targeting women 18 to 34, women 18 to 49 and female teen demos, “Ananda’s” staff had already jumped on the youth bandwagon in booking the boy band ‘N Sync (and their mothers) for an Oct. 1 episode. Most notably, though, Mr. King said his company has forged editorial partnerships with several youth-oriented women’s magazines for such topical episodes as “20 Coolest Girls in America” (in conjunction with Glamour) and “All About Boys” (with Cosmopolitan).
“We want Ananda to do a show that matches her strengths in doing more up-tempo, more positive shows for young adults,” Mr. King said. “We always take the feedback of client stations very seriously, and they’re also making positive suggestions about picking up the pace and outlook of the show, which we’re taking wholeheartedly.”
To date, “Ananda,” which is cleared in 198 markets representing 91 percent U.S. coverage, has been averaging a 1.2 rating in households after two weeks on the air, according to the Nielsen Syndication Service report (Sept. 17 to 30, 2001). However, in the most recent NSS report, “Ananda’s” 1.1 rating for the week of Sept. 24 to 30 represented a 15 percent drop from her premiere week the previous week, when the show had a 1.3 rating nationally.
However, as Mr. King noted, those national numbers were affected by some widespread pre-emptions due to extended coverage of the terrorist attacks. Although he did not offer data, Mr. King contended that more recent metered market ratings are “starting to pop” in the major markets.