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NATPE NEWS: Making the most of Universal’s family ties

Jan 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Steve Rosenberg has been subjected to both sides of the vertical-integration firestorm as president of Universal Domestic Television. His company has created a successful programming pipeline for its sibling cable units, but on the other hand, has faced stiff challenges in syndication without the benefit of a company-owned station group.
Having come in from Studios USA last year to head up the division as part of the Vivendi Universal-USA Networks merger, Mr. Rosenberg is now firming up the company’s brands and organizing its development division to expand its distribution reach. But where others see a difficult landscape with the proliferation of channels, he says he sees potential.
“Frankly, we are seeing more opportunities right now to sell more programs to more people,” he said. “We also have the ability to cross-platform series in never-before-seen deals. That’s opportunity. Look at [“Crossing Over With John Edward”] on Sci-Fi and in syndication. Nobody did a shared syndication/cable window just a few years ago. Now it’s becoming the norm.”
Each of the company’s syndicated series will be back next season, according to Mr. Rosenberg, in New Orleans last week at the National Association of Television Program Executives confab to solidify station lineups. Talk-show staples “Maury” and “Jerry Springer” will be back, as will relationship strip tandem “Blind Date” and “The Fifth Wheel.” “Crossing Over With John Edward” will also come back for its junior go-around in syndication, although the show has not yet secured a renewal in New York.
“We just have terrific producers, from David Garfinkle to Richard Dominick to Amy Rosenbloom, all of whom make sure that all our series perform well,” Mr. Rosenberg said.
“Maury” and “Jerry Springer” continue to be workhorses for the Tribune station group. Both are cleared on 12 stations owned by the group, with “Maury” growing year to year and “Jerry” earning upgrades this season on the group’s New York and Los Angeles stations.
“Tribune has been a great partner with us,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “Our product has worked for their stations and it’s important to us that they can come to us when they need product.”
As to the relationship show duo, “Blind Date” continues to set the standard for the reality genre. The show recently launched runs on TNN as part of the company’s plan to expand the franchise.
In addition, “Blind Date” recently broadened its reach to the video shelves.
As for “Fifth Wheel,” the decision to drop host Aisha Tyler proved risky, but has produced results. Season two of the strip has posted solid growth vs. last year with gains of 14 percent in households. Plans are already being considered for that show’s own video licensing.