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Katz Group Selects Series

Jan 12, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Though few syndicated series are officially on the market, Katz Television Group Programming is unveiling its annual pre-National Association of Television Program Executives fall 2004 program reviews this month to its more than 350 Katz Television Group client stations.
New first-run series getting recommendations from the company are Twentieth Television’s “On-Air With Ryan Seacrest” and Paramount Domestic Television’s “Entertainment Tonight” spinoff “The Insider.” Recommended off-net series are Buena Vista Television’s “According to Jim” and Twentieth’s “24.”
In addition to the fact that few series are officially being offered to stations for fall, few distributors taped pilots that could be reviewed in time for Katz’s survey, despite heavy development throughout the year by a number of syndicators. This meant the Katz group was unable to provide recommendations on some potential series for stations. That said, the company took its yearly shot at what could look good for the fall.
“As we prepare for the NATPE conference and the season ahead, we have provided recommendations of programs that, in our opinion, our client stations should pursue and the latest developments in syndicated programming,” said Bill Carroll, VP, director of programming.
The group gave props to the trio of veteran talk shows that remained atop the genre: “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Dr. Phil” and “Live With Regis and Kelly.”
Included on its list for 2004 is the January start of “On-Air With Ryan Seacrest,” which has cleared the Fox owned-and-operated stations. “It is an interesting attempt at transitional fare aimed at the now slightly older `MTV Total Request Live’ audience,” Mr. Carroll said.
Among other potential series, he noted that while the organization applauded Buena Vista for its efforts to develop advertiser-friendly fare in the upcoming Tony Danza talk show, without a pilot or solo hosting segments, KTVG Programming was unable to make a recommendation.
One series that did have a pilot was Sony Pictures Television’s strip “Life & Style,” featuring co-host Jules Asner.
“We believe that the program is best suited for traditional affiliate daytime play,” Mr. Carroll said. “With only stars, concepts or titles to review, we believe that the more fully fleshed-out `Life & Style’ warrants serious consideration. We make this qualified recommendation encouraged by the early station clearances but are waiting to be sure that the program will have our hoped-for focus needed for traditional affiliate daytime play.”
Among the newsmagazine crowd, company executives said that the lack of time-period real estate in access on stations made development difficult in the genre. They noted, however, that “ET” spinoff “The Insider” was already on solid ground because of its early clearances. “With deals already having been done well before the close of 2003, `The Insider’s’ launch is a sure thing, thanks to clearances on the CBS affiliates in the Viacom station group,” said Anthony Spirito, director of programming at the company.
Relationship series, on the other hand, may have hit a wall, according to one company executive. The report said the four syndicated relationship series were unable to gain on last year’s numbers.
“The relationship format continues to sizzle on the networks and cable, especially in the summer months, when the weather is warmer and libidos are hotter,” said Lisa Hollaender, director of program research. “In syndication, the genre seems to have hit a wall where the current crop of relationship strips with their double runs and weekend plays have only been mediocre alternatives for the younger-skewing audiences.”
Perhaps accordingly, there are no relationship strips in development from the major distributors for the fall. There also are no game shows or court shows.
One genre that does have an entrant is reality. Sony has signed Pat Croce, the one-time owner of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76’ers turned motivational speaker, for a reality-based show. In the series, Mr. Croce will move into the homes of willing families and help them work out their issues.
“Our qualified recommendation for `Pat Croce’ is for nontraditional daytime play, perhaps in tandem with other reality half-hours,” Mr. Spirito said.
Katz was unable to recommend any of the 2003 prime-time freshman off-network fare as potential back-end staples in syndication.
“Success in prime time for sitcoms has always been difficult,” said Ruth Lee Leaycraft, VP, director of programming, for Continental Television Sales. “With so little viable product heading syndication’s way, it’s not surprising we scrutinize shows early in their first season hoping to find one that might be a contender four years down the road. So far, none of the 2003 network sitcom premieres has caught our attention to tout as a contender.”
As the company looks toward sales for the 2006 season, it gives its vote of approval to Buena Vista’s “According to Jim.” The company said the series “merits serious consideration” for stations unable to renew one of their blue-chip sitcoms like “Seinfeld,” which is readying for its third cycle for Sony, and King World’s “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which is up for its second cycle.
“Renewals need to be weighed very carefully, as they may present a better value than some newer offerings coming to market,” Ms. Leaycraft said.
Among weeklies, with no new first-run programming in the mix, the group turned its sole attention to off-net shows and gave the thumbs up to “24.”
“Given the success this year of the serialized off-net drama-`The West Wing’-we can recommend `24′ for 2005,” said Greg Conklin, senior programmer, director of programming at Katz.