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‘Brady’ making late-night waves

Nov 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Buena Vista’s rookie “The Wayne Brady Show” may have entered the season as a tadpole in the minds of some industry pundits, but the news last week that the ABC owned-and-operated stations had committed to the series through the end of the 2003-04 season is clearly making waves.
The “Wayne Brady” deal means ABC will not continue its partnership in Warner Bros.’ talk show “Caroline Rhea,” according to numerous sources, raising uncertainty about the future of late-night programming on the ABC stations, which constitute the bulk of “Rhea’s” major-market clearances. “Wayne Brady’s” renewal solidifies what will be a national launch for fall 2003, after a slow rollout this season.
The strip is currently broadcast in 54 percent of the country as part of the limited rollout plan with ABC stations in New York; Philadelphia; San Francisco; Houston; Raleigh, N.C.; Fresno, Calif.; Flint, Mich.; and Toledo, Ohio, on board. After 10 weeks, the series is averaging a 2.2 rating and 7 share in metered markets where the show is available, according to Nielsen Media Research.
“The support of the ABC-owned station group has been remarkable, and we look forward to the continued success of the show,” said Janice Marinelli, president of Buena Vista Television. “Our first-season limited rollout strategy for `The Wayne Brady Show’ has given us the ability to successfully establish the show with our core launch stations. Now with a solid foundation, we have the platform for renewal and a wide national release.”
What is unclear is the future of “Caroline Rhea.” The Warner Bros. strip originally sought to keep real estate provided by the departure of Rosie O’Donnell, with Ms. Rhea in mind as her successor. However, “Brady” ended up taking many of “Rosie’s” time slots instead.
Insiders said that, given the failure rate of talk shows, ABC opted to take a 50 percent ownership stake in the “Rhea” project with a mind to slide the series in “Brady’s” place should the show stumble, while clearing the series on its O&O stations. However, now that “Brady” is moving forward with season two, sources said ABC will no longer keep its stake in the strip.
With the changing scope of late-night programming on ABC, including Jimmy Kimmel’s new program from 12:05 a.m. to 1:05 a.m., sources differed on what will air following Mr. Kimmel’s show. Many ABC stations have signed on for Litton’s syndicated strip “Ask Rita” for an 18-month contract targeting late-night. Should “Rita” land the 1 a.m.-to-2 a.m. period following the Kimmel show, “Rhea” would have a difficult time finishing the season, analysts say.
However, sources at Warner Bros. insist the show isn’t down for the count. The show has averaged a 1.1 rating despite the plethora of late-night time slots and airs concurrently on ABC Family.
“Really from the beginning it’s been an uphill battle for us. But I think everybody has been proud of Caroline’s show, which has beaten other rookies, such as `Rob Nelson’ and `Beyond With James Van Praagh,’ despite airing in late fringe,” said one Warner Bros. executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “Let’s just say it’s unfortunate we don’t have our own stations designed to keep competitors out. That’s how the business works now.”