Stations Place Faith in `Living It Up!’

Aug 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Joe Berwanger is counting on “Living It Up! With Ali & Jack” to help complete the turnaround that WDIV-TV in Detroit has been undergoing for the past couple of years.
“It’s the next piece in the ongoing evolution of our daytime programming into what I like to think is a better quality slate of shows,” said Mr. Berwanger, WDIV’s general manager.
For the past two years the Post-Newsweek-owned NBC affiliate has been shifting its daytime programming away from sensationalistic talk shows such as “Jerry Springer” and “Jenny Jones” to less controversial syndie offerings, including “Dr. Phil” and “The John Walsh Show.” When WDIV adds “Living It Up!” to its morning schedule this fall, the new live talk show will serve as a linchpin to the daytime overhaul.
“The piece that we were looking for was, quite frankly, something that had the best elements of `Regis and Kelly,’ along with some of the elements of `The View,”’ said Mr. Berwanger, who added that the new slate of daytime shows better complements WDIV’s reputable news brand than shows such as “Jerry Springer” and “Jenny Jones,” which didn’t attract many news viewers.
In Detroit, “Living It Up!” will replace the one-hour block of “Weakest Link” and “Pyramid,” which airs at 11 a.m. opposite “The View.” Mr. Berwanger said he hasn’t decided whether “Living” will air in the 11 a.m. spot or whether it will air at 10 a.m., where it could benefit from the lead-in from the third hour of “The Today Show.”
At 10 a.m. it would go head-to-head in the market with the top competitor “Martha Stewart Living,” which like “Living It Up!” is distributed by King World. (On many of the CBS owned-and-operated stations across the country, which like King World are part of Viacom, “Living” is replacing “Martha”in its time period.) “The John Walsh Show” is currently faring well for WDIV at 10 but could also work as strong counterprogramming opposite “The View.”
Mr. Berwanger said he’s confident the strategy toward more respectable daytime fare will succeed, although some shows-such as “Weakest Link” and “Pyramid”-will inevitably fall by the wayside.
“The part of this business that I always enjoy the most is that we’re so optimistic about the unknown future,” said Mr. Berwanger, who declined to reveal how much the station is paying King World in license fees for the show. “`Living It Up!’ hasn’t even been on the air yet and yet right away, we’re more optimistic about it than we are about the syndicated shows that have been on the air for a year and have a real track record.”
Depending on the size of the market, the demand for the show, the time period and countless other factors, license fees for a highly touted new show can range from $1,000 a week in a small market to $8,000 to $10,000 in a medium-size market and $40,000-$50,000 in top markets such as Los Angeles and New York. Detroit is the country’s ninth-largest market.
While the stations’ financial investment in “Living It Up!” is significant, even more important is the two-year commitment they are making to a new show that can help make or break a station’s daytime schedule.
“`Ali & Jack’ is an important program for us, since it launches our daytime programming schedule at 9 a.m.,” said Jay Newman, VP and general manager of WJZ-TV, the CBS owned-and-operated station in Baltimore. “If we get it launched right and continue to support the show, hopefully we’ll have a long-term franchise in that slot instead of the revolving door of different syndicated shows each year or two that we have had.”
“Living” will replace “The Wayne Brady Show,” which is ranking third in the time slot, on that station. WJZ, like King World, is owned by Viacom.