‘Model’s’ Banks Signs for Talker

Oct 4, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Though the new TV season is just a few weeks old, syndicators are already lining up talent commitments for 2005-06.

In one of the latest deals, supermodel and prime-time reality TV roducer and host Tyra Banks, following weeks of speculation, finalized a deal with Warner Bros. division Telepictures to star in her own daytime talk show for the 2005-06 season.

Ms. Banks joins comedians Mo’nique and Steve Harvey on Telepictures’ syndication development roster for the 2005-06 season. She’s also one of a handful of stars developing shows for syndication that could fall into the lifestyle category.

Garnett Losak, VP and director of programming, Petry TV, said she sees a self-improvement pattern among daytime projects in development featuring lifestyle experts Vera Wang, Isaac Mizrahi and Ms. Banks.

“These are not comedians; these are not psychologists,” she said. “These are the Martha Stewarts. This is all about improving one’s environment and one’s self. It’s a theme that’s developed from the reality thing, with particular attention to the cable thing.”

In August, Buena Vista Television confirmed that fashion designer Ms. Wang (who has dressed Ms. Banks) will host a lifestyle show debuting in fall 2005. The show is slated to be produced by Casablanca Records chief Tommy Mottola and “The Original Latin Kings of Comedy” executive producer Jeb Brien.

NBC Universal has already shot a pilot with fashion designer Mr. Mizrahi.

Though Ms. Losak is not picking any potential winners this early in the development season, she said the strategy of targeting a lifestyle expert is a smart move.

“There’s probably a place for someone who can parlay their expertise as a designer into a talk show,” she said. “There’s definitely a single idea in Hollywood, and I think it’s probably a good one. The thing is you have to boil it down to execution. That’s going to be up to the developer.”

Dick Robertson, president, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, said he’s happy to bet on the potential in Ms. Banks, who has been a frequent guest on King World’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” where she has helped make over guests. She also has taken unknowns and turned them into top models on UPN, where she current hosts the third season of reality series “America’s Next Top Model.”

“Very much like Dr. Phil, Tyra has also cut her teeth with `Oprah,”‘ Mr. Robertson said. “She’s extremely smart, very grounded and also easy on the eyes. We think she’s got the talk show goods to pull this off.”

Jim Paratore, executive VP, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, and president, Telepictures Productions, said Ms. Banks’ success at bringing young female viewers to network television is what his company hopes to do in syndication.

“She [has] totally redefined UPN,” Mr. Paratore said of her show. “It’s really redefined it as a female network.”

Mr. Robertson said he was interested in how Ms. Banks helped increase “Oprah’s” younger female numbers when she was on the show.

“That’s exactly the audience we’re looking for,” he said. “Women 18 to 49 with an emphasis on 18 to 34.”

Ms. Losak said a beautiful supermodel hosting a show in daytime may be a risk, considering the more earthy hosts audiences are accustomed to. She said she wondered “how connected women watching the show feel toward Tyra Banks.”

“On the other hand, I’m very open to Telepictures answering that for me,” she said. “I’m always willing to listen to what [Mr. Paratore] has to say.”

Among other plans for syndication next year, Twentieth Television is in serious discussions to develop a show with author and CNBC personal finance editor Suze Orman, while NBC Universal is discussing the possibility of a show with singer and actress Vanessa Williams. Tribune Entertainment is working on a new version of “Real People” hosted by Mario Lopez, former co-host of NBC’s “The Other Half.” Tribune is teaming with The Gurin Co. and veteran producer George Schlatter Productions. Mr. Schlatter executive produced the original prime-time series “Real People,” which debuted on NBC in 1979.