Universal staying in syndie game

Oct 29, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Universal won’t sell syndicated relationship shows “Blind Date” and rookie “5th Wheel,” despite months of reports that the Vivendi-owned company was looking for buyers.
Among the rumored players had been Paramount Domestic Television and Columbia TriStar Television Distribution, both of which vehemently denied interest in the shows.
Despite tough viewing patterns since the Sept. 11 attacks, “Blind Date” has continued to lead the pack of relationship shows, most recently earning a 1.6 national household rating and drawing the coveted 18 to 34 crowd, according to Nielsen Media Research data. Heavy competition among rookies has left some players disappointed with “5th Wheel’s” performance, even though the show is among the leading rookie shows, along with Telepictures Distribution’s “Elimidate” and Studios USA Domestic Television’s “Crossing Over With John Edward.”
“We’re off to a good start, but the field is not the same because the game is a little smaller due to so much more competition in the genre,” said Matt Cooperstein, senior VP of domestic television syndication at Universal Television. “But we’re No. 1 in growth for `5th Wheel,’ with good quarter-hours, and the show is holding its own in its time periods.”
In fact, “5th Wheel” is about to receive even better slots, with a slew of upgrades since its premiere. Tampa, Fla., station WTTA-TV has upgraded both its runs of “Wheel,” with one airing shifting from 2 a.m. to 10 p.m., while the other moves from 2:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. In Orlando, Fla., the series will move from 3:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. The series’ Pittsburgh outlet has moved a double-run block of the strip from noon to 11 p.m., while San Antonio has upped the series from 12:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. a month after its debut.
“Because of the numbers we’ve seen, we’re committed to both shows and already making plans to bring them back for another season,” Mr. Cooperstein said.
When Universal was bought out by Vivendi earlier this year, a number of insiders speculated that the end of the division was in store. However, Mr. Cooperstein said the opposite has turned out to be true.
“Vivendi strongly supports these shows and is committed to them,” he said.
Although the company has pulled out from the floor at the National Association of Television Program Executives convention, Mr. Cooperstein said the library will continue to grow with a number of series in development.
“We will be bringing something new to the market next year and continue to rise in this challenging marketplace,” he said.#