Syndication Roundtable Part 2: Searching for Shows That Can Make Noise

Jan 3, 2005  •  Post A Comment

This year’s roundtable was moderated by TVWeek

Editor Alex Ben Block. The participants were Linda Bell Blue, executive producer of “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider”; Don Corsini, president and general manager of KCBS-TV and KCAL-TV in Los Angeles; Mark Itkin, executive VP and worldwide head of syndication, cable and nonfiction programming for the William Morris Agency and recently elevated to co-head of the worldwide TV department; Hilary Estey McLoughlin, executive VP and general manager of Warner Bros. Telepictures Productions; and Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. The discussion took place in front of an audience Dec. 8 in Los Angeles. Part 1 appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of TVWeek.

When the NATPE convention takes place later this month in Las Vegas, sellers and buyers will look for syndicated shows that can break through the clutter of hundreds of programs available each day on broadcast, cable and satellite television. It grows more difficult each year as the number of outlets and the viewing choices continue to expand. In the second of two parts of the annual TelevisionWeek Syndication Roundtable, we ask the experts what it takes, what they look for and what shows they will bring out this year.

TelevisionWeek: Mark, can you define for us what `good product’ means these days in syndication?

Mark Itkin: The adjectives I would use to describe it change by the year. The kind of compelling product that we are focusing on right now, particularly for daytime, which is really the vast wasteland out there in first-run, is really something that can be produced efficiently costwise and that will make a lot of noise out there, whether that’s a format or a format with a talent attached to it. Something that is going to bring a lot of eyeballs back to that daypart, because a lot of eyeballs have left that daypart, and something that is going to be counterprogramming to what’s out there already because there’s enough of mostly everything that’s out there already. So what can we do that is going to excite the gentlemen sitting both sides of myself, the distributor, the general manager of the station-and hopefully, and most importantly, the viewer.

TVWeek: Tell us, Hilary, from the production point of view, what is the challenge today? What are you looking for when you are trying to figure out what to develop, what to produce? From your point of view, when you commit resources, what are you looking to accomplish?

Hilary Estey McLoughlin: Because we are not aligned with a major station group, we tend to look for things that are high-profile that we know can actually be market drivers and that people are going to want to come to us to buy. It tends to be that over the course of time: high-profile, personality-driven shows that we’ve had a better-than-average success with launching and picking. We actually pulled a statistic that 71 talk shows have been launched since the 1994-1995 season and three have succeeded. One was `Dr. Phil,’ which was launched off of `Oprah,’ and the other two are ours, which are `Rosie’ and `Ellen.’

TVWeek: So the odds are better of winning the California Lottery?

Ms. Estey McLoughlin: It’s tough, and it’s getting tougher. So what we have also decided from a strategic standpoint is to really focus on targeting the right audience, the right profile, the right demos, with high-quality, advertiser-friendly shows. That’s a much better business than taking a shot with shows that don’t have that profile, since you know our business in the station business is selling 30-second spots, and that is where the value is. When you have a show that can get a 2 [household] rating and sell like a 4 rating rather than a show that gets a 2 rating and sells like a 1 rating. With `Ellen’ we were able to take a show that has upscale appeal, has the right demos, can compete head-to-head with `Oprah’ and `Dr. Phil’ in terms of siphoning off those demos, even though she doesn’t beat them, and target that upscale audience.

But I think it is a long-term business for stations. This year, one of the projects we are launching is the Tyra Banks show, which I think encompasses our strategy. It is a high-profile personality, a show that targets young demos in an advertiser-friendly way. The demo is so important because you grow the demo with your show because you want to have a long life span. So if you start off with them early they can grow with the show, like Oprah did with her audience. That’s sort of our strategy. We really go after stuff that’s high-profile, that’s targeted to get upscale demos and young demos. Since we are in the daytime business, it’s really a female demo. The younger female demo is really our target: 18 to 29.

TVWeek: The more upscale the better?

Ms. Estey McLoughlin: Yes, it’s just a much more viable business on both the station and the media side for us. So that’s been our strategy for the last couple of years and it’s been working well for us.

TVWeek: Can you remind us of a couple of key products that you are involved in that you might be taking to NATPE or that you are currently selling on the first-run side?

Barry Wallach: `Access Hollywood.’ In daytime, `Jane Pauley’ and `Starting Over.’ And [NBC Universal is] announcing `Martha Stewart’ for fall of ’05. We have a multiyear deal with Martha Stewart Living and she’ll return to daytime television next fall. … Mark Burnett will be the executive producer, as will Martha. It’s not going to be the old show. It’s going to be a hybrid of the old show. Live studio audience. We’ll be shooting multiple locations. There will be a lot of changes from the old show. But it is Martha doing Martha. It’s cooking, baking, but it’s much different from the old show.

TVWeek: Linda, as the producer, how do you create a spinoff?

Linda Bell Blue: We’ve had a great deal of success with `The Insider’ for two reasons, the first of which is that it was born out of the belly of `ET’ in many ways. It’s a great mother to have when you are a newborn show. I’m the executive producer of both shows, but we have many producers from `ET’ that also work on `The Insider’ and we have a combined newsroom for the shows. They are a very competitive group but they do cooperate and they help each other out a great deal, and I’m very proud of that. `ET’ has enormous connections and contacts and years of production experience. The director of `ET’ went to direct `The Insider’ to launch the show. So we have a very, very healthy group and years and years of experience to make all this come together.

We do six feeds between `ET’ and `The Insider’ every day, and what we’ve done is really try to move the syndication business forward by tailoring feeds for certain markets. In New York, `The Insider’ runs first. In Philadelphia and Los Angeles `ET’ airs first. So it’s an amazing challenge every day for everyone just to get it done.

The second reason is that I’m lucky enough to work with one of the most amazing sales teams in the business. They did a great job at going out and selling `The Insider’ with `ET’ and selling it independently to other station groups. With our partnerships with CBS and other strong partnerships that our company has, we were able to get off with an amazing start.

TVWeek: Reality television seems to rise and fall. The first-run syndication talk shows continue to be a staple. Action hours seem to be out of fashion at the moment. I was wondering if each of you could address what you think the trends are. What is the market looking for and what does the market want?

Mr. Wallach: And that is the $64,000 question.

TVWeek: Or $64 million.

Mr. Wallach: Or $64 million, yes. In daytime talk, it’s always going to be a staple. There are all different variations, young and middle-aged, all different formats, variety, single-issue or multiple topics. Those are always there. The game shows in access, the entertainment shows in access, the entertainment group-almost all the shows are represented here. On an NTI [Nielsen Television Index] basis, you are talking almost 20 rating points
. There’s a tremendous appetite for those types of shows. So there are certain things that I think are just standards.

Two years ago we launched a reality show in daytime, `Starting Over.’ Reality is hot, obviously, in prime time. It’s been tried before in daytime and it’s very expensive. All these different reality shows that have been tried in daytime. We invested money early on in `Starting Over’ and we are finally at the point of breaking even, and next year we will finally be making money. But it’s a long haul.

There’s a trend with reality. People are looking, How can you do it in daytime? It doesn’t skew old, and you look at `Starting Over,’ the households are a 1.0, 1.1 or 1.2. But the demo is right there at 1.1 also. It’s a 1-to-1 conversion. There’s no wastage on that. So the economics get challenging. It’s expensive. But we’ve figured out a way to make money on that. And the stations are very happy because you are getting the demo. So I think people are looking for ways to have reality in the daytime, but on the production side it’s very challenging to make the economics work.

TVWeek: So on a show like `Starting Over,’ even though you don’t get a huge audience overall, the fact that you are able to deliver a very specific audience allows the economics to work.

Mr. Wallach: It’s as Hilary said earlier. It’s all about the demographic. Nobody sells households, and our household number on `Starting Over’ is low. But on the demo, and locally for lots of stations around the country, the show took six months but by May sweeps we were pulling 2’s and 3’s in a lot of markets in the demo. That’s all that people cared about. So you can pull a 2 household, 2 demo, people are thrilled. Meaning Don’s group. Same thing on the national side.

So you’ve got to get past the households and the old world, go back five or 10 years ago, when shows were being canceled on a 3 on the households. It’s so hard to get a 2 on the households in today’s world on a national basis.

TVWeek: In daytime television, there used to be a lot of game shows. There aren’t anymore. What are some trends that you see in the some of these genres that have been so faithful for so many years?

Mr. Itkin: I think a lot of times people would put `Wheel’ and `Jeopardy!’ in a category of itself, but they really are good game shows. `Feud’ has done well for a long time and `Millionaire’ is doing well in first-run.

It’s a question of finding, again, whether it’s something that’s already been on the air, which is probably going to be the easier sale because it will have some familiarity and some branding. But if you found the right game show, or the right two game shows, because they tend to work better in a block, then there is a marketplace for it.

Today, with all the product integration going on, there’s a better business for a game show, and with a lot of interactive devices there may be an even better business for game shows. So I think it’s finding the right game show.

As far as the trends go, it seems to be a lot more of the same. Because of the economics and the vertical integration and the people looking at the bottom line, it’s tough to take risks. Fortunately, Barry and the people at NBC threw the dice on `Starting Over’ and thank god they sat with it and were patient, and it looks like it is going to have a life. But to try to sell something in a new genre, something different, is very difficult.

What a trend is is more of the same, but I think what really needs to be done to break the trend is to try to find something that is-and I’m going to use a probably dangerous word in today’s environment-to find something that is really sexy in daytime.

Mr. Wallach: Soaps get away with it.

Mr. Itkin: What can you find that is not a soap that’s much less expensive that you can do in daytime that you wouldn’t have an advertiser problem but that would really make some noise out there? I just continue to hear in my head the word `sexy,’ and I’m working on a few things and hopefully I’ll get them sold.

TVWeek: Not sure what you mean by the word `sexy.’ It seems to be on television you have to be sexy but not too sexy because you don’t want to turn them off. You’re not talking about discussing sex so much as sex appeal, right?

Mr. Itkin: No, not at all. It’s the old adage in the advertising world that sex sells. So I keep that as the theme. It’s not talk about sex but it’s things that are sexy to particularly the female audience in daytime.

TVWeek: Don, you are in a different position. You actually have to make some choices and live with choices other people make. What is the trend? Is it more of the same or do you see things changing?

Don Corsini: Frankly, I have to agree with Mark. I hate to use the word apathetic but there’s not a whole lot other than the obvious runaway hits. Whether it’s `Oprah,’ `Dr. Phil,’ `ET,’ `The Insider,’ `People’s Court,’ `Judge Judy,’ `Ellen’ to a degree. I think that there isn’t a lot out there beyond those shows. `Extra,’ `Access Hollywood.’ They’ve been around for a while. For many years, they’ve occupied their time period. It’s been consistent programming but beyond that I see the business and a lot of other television shows kind of fall in the middle.

Daytime talk has been mentioned before. Daytime is tough. We’ve seen a lot of viewership moving over to cable in the daytime. Our main challenge is how are we getting those viewers back? Whether it’s sex sells or the next breakaway, everyone is looking for the next `Oprah.’ In my opinion, there isn’t another `Oprah.’ Oprah is unto herself. I mean you look at the success that Oprah Winfrey has had over the years.

I will make this statement and it may sound silly, but years ago when I was the program director at KABC, I was the guy who said, I don’t think Oprah Winfrey can work in Los Angeles. Oops. I also had a friend who was running the entertainment division at ABC who said Bill Cosby wouldn’t work. But the fact of the matter is Oprah Winfrey. I don’t know if you can ever replace Oprah Winfrey, quite frankly. So it’s a difficult business right now. And I think our suppliers who we rely upon are genuinely challenged.

TVWeek: Hilary, one trend that seems to be out there at least coming up is what might be called fashion television. Is fashion television the next big wave?

Ms. Estey McLoughlin: No, I think it comes down to personalities that can wear well day after day. I think that some of the fashion personalities that are out there may not be able to wear well day after day. I think just focusing specifically onto fashion, and if it’s not broader than that, it’s not going to attract a large enough audience. It feels like a cable service show to me more than a syndicated show. So I think it needs a broader umbrella that you can kind of encompass real people with real issues, celebrity and fashion and service, which is what we are going to do with Tyra. I think the other shows, if they focus on those narrow subjects, will be challenged to get a broad enough audience.

TVWeek: You mentioned the difference between a first-run syndicated show, which has pretty broad appeal, and a cable show. Define the difference a little bit more for me.

Ms. Estey McLoughlin: I think now with cable that business has sort of grown to its point where it’s maxed out with all the growth, based on increased penetration and more channels and the distribution, so we are on an equal field with cable now. It’s really going to be about the programming now.

I think cable, they do not spend money in daytime. So I think we have an advantage in syndication over cable, but I think it’s down to, it’s not a household rating business, it’s a demo rating business. And cable has had some success in targeting those demos and drawing upscale women out of syndication. But no matter how you look at it, it’s which side of the decimal point are you on? Syndication is on the left side of the decimal point and cable is on the right side of the decimal point.

A lot of those shows are niche; they do get some upscale viewers and they have advertiser-friendly qualities but they never h
ave gotten broad enough because it’s too fragmented across all those networks. If you look at syndication, it’s still a more efficient and successful medium to reach young demos and demos overall. `Oprah’ has not had a better year in a long time. She’s just on fire and keeps growing and getting better. It’s good for the business that all these syndicated shows are working given that we have the cable threat.

TVWeek: Linda, `The Insider’ is off and running. A few days ago, Fox announced it is bringing back `A Current Affair,’ sort of the granddaddy of the magazine reality show. Is there a trend toward newsmagazines?

Ms. Blue: I think the success of `The Insider’ shows there’s a trend toward successful quality newsmagazines. One reason that general managers like Don like to buy newsmagazines is that they work in several different dayparts. They work early fringe very successfully. They work in access and they work in late-night. It works to bring a news audience in. It works well against cable news, so I think it’s a good brand, a good segment of programming for stations to buy.

Mr. Wallach: To follow up on what Hilary said, with cable there is to a certain degree a misperception there because, as Hilary said, it’s kind of plateaued. If you go back the last couple of years there are still more viewers going to basic cable in the daytime, but well over half of the viewers are still on broadcast television. The problem is we as an industry have produced bad shows, and stations have bought bad shows. Nine out of 10 shows fail. In syndication, in prime time, in cable, everywhere. It’s a hard business to try and find a successful show.

Another misperception to a certain degree is if you look at cable in daytime, it’s really got two formats. It’s kids with Nick, Noggin, Cartoon, Disney and all that. And news, Fox News, CNN, the Weather Channel and all that stuff added up.

When you look at local markets, those are the only things in daytime, not prime time, that really pop out, that actually hit a threshold to be reported. And to do some back-of-the-envelope math, in basic cable there’s about 15 ratings points in daytime. About 5 or 6 of those are kids and news. Everything else, just as Hilary said earlier, is just 100 channels of .1’s added up. There’s not a lot of original programming in daytime. The only thing that really ever popped was TLC when they did the `Wedding Story’ and `Baby Story’ and all that stuff. But in daytime on cable, it’s really a lot of repeats, off-network. It’s stuff like `Trading Spaces’ from prime time getting second-run.

So there’s a vast opportunity in daytime for the broadcasters. We’re the only ones producing original programming to speak of. And put the kids, the young audience and the news, which is all 50-plus, on the side, there’s a lot of opportunity there.

TVWeek: Somebody asked a top executive at King World recently, How do you decide to launch a show, and the answer was, when `Oprah’ is ready to spin it off.

Ms. Blue: That’s a good mother too!

TVWeek: In your case, do you have any more ideas to continue to grow like that, spinning off new products?

Ms. Blue: Oh, absolutely. The `ET’ brand is a very strong international brand. There’s a new show that we are going to do for BSkyB. Just to continue to spin off the brand and the producing talents. The people that are the co-executive producers and the senior producers, many of them have grown up from within the show.

TVWeek: I guess there are limitations, but there was `Hot Ticket,’ which I thought was doing OK, but when `The Insider’ came on there was a decision made that it was more important to get those clearances for `The Insider.’ So `Hot Ticket,’ even though it was doing well from a ratings point of view, was out of business. Was that a difficult choice for you?

Ms. Blue: I loved `Hot Ticket.’ I loved producing the show. It was a lot of fun. It was very spirited and we do have elements of that in `ET’ even now. Yes, it was a tough decision but it was a decision that John [Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television] and the people who run the company made so we could get clearances for `The Insider.’

TVWeek: Let’s see if we can open it up to questions.

Greg Meidel, president of programming, Paramount Domestic Television: Linda, what are you doing with the Steven Cojocaru project?

Ms. Blue: Steven Cojocaru is one of the most talented men I’ve ever worked with. He’s very smart. He’s very energetic. And we produced what we believe is a very strong pilot. However, Mary Hart did an interview on `ET’ where he broke the news that he does have a genetic kidney disease and he is on track to get a kidney transplant. That is our first priority, to make sure that his health is strong. Cojo is on `The Insider’ and `ET.’

TVWeek: Let me start with Linda and go the other way on another question. We’ve seen a lot of talk about indecency. Indecency from my point of view is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it’s what you define it as. Some things are clearly indecent and some things are not. In terms of content I hear a lot about there being a chill on content, that people are afraid to do certain things because they are afraid they will get caught up in the next wardrobe malfunction. Does it affect the content of the shows that you produce, Linda?

Ms. Blue: I believe that America is a far more conservative place than it has been in the last decade. Things have changed a great deal as far as what an audience wants to accept on the air. I grew up in the Midwest and I think I have a good gut about what the viewer finds acceptable, and I’ve always followed my gut that way. We are a news program. We report the news and we don’t let concerns about blocking what the news is get in our way. I will say that I err on the side of conservatism a great deal of the time.

TVWeek: Hilary, what about you when you produce shows now? Is the content of those shows impacted at all by the issue of indecency?

Ms. Estey McLoughlin: We tend to scrutinize the shows more than we used to because the stations are much more sensitive about content. And we try to anticipate if there will be problems. Certain genres lend themselves to these problems. Some of the relationship shows, court shows. Those kind of shows, sometimes talk shows, depending on what kind of talk show they are. The talk-variety shows tend not to have content issues. Sometimes single-issue shows have some content issues. We are definitely more sensitive and scrutinizing the content more to make sure we are not crossing the line. But I would pretty much say that we don’t have shows that generally cross the line.

TVWeek: Are talk shows as racy as they used to be?

Ms. Estey McLoughlin: I would say the `Jerry Springers’ and the `Maury Poviches’ of the world, I tune in to those and I still see those as being unbelievably racy shows that I’m sure advertisers are afraid of in some ways-and stations. Either the stations that run them accept that content or they have to scrutinize them more, but it is still pretty much at the same level that I’ve seen before. So I think that there is some change in terms of how you look at shows and how you produce shows, and you try not to push as much as you might have previously.

TVWeek: Don, Viacom has been in the eye of the storm. How does that impact how you do business?

Mr. Corsini: I had the benefit of the great day of having that wardrobe malfunction and earlier that day I had the Shaquille O’Neal F-word. That wasn’t a fun day, so let me just tell you, I think to Linda’s point, if you are going to err it’s on the side of conservatism right now because it is such a sensitive issue and there’s no need to go there. Frankly, we’ll play it as safe as we possibly can.

TVWeek: Mark, you are in a different situation. A lot of your clients may want to be outrageous to get attention, to break out of the pack. Have the guidelines for what you advise them or how you do business been impacted at all by these indecency issues?

Mr. Itkin: Sure. We are very conscious of it. Again, it’s about how you are going to do it, in a subtle or s
mart way, that can still produce the show and not [dilute] it so much so that no one is going to want to watch it. I used that word `sexy’ before, and there are ways of doing things. You are never going to please everybody. There’s always going to be somebody who is going to find something wrong or that something is going too far. But I think that if you do it right … it will probably still be controversial. You look at `Desperate Housewives’ in prime time-that’s controversial and that’s sexy, somewhat, and yet it’s getting huge numbers because I think, this is a bold statement to make in public, but I think there’s a lot of hypocrisy out there and I think a lot of people are what I call closet watchers, and that’s been the case for years. I remember back in the days when everyone thought `The Newlywed Game’ was the raciest thing around and people wouldn’t admit they watched it, but they were all watching it.

TVWeek: So closet watchers are people who watch but don’t admit they watch?

Mr. Itkin: I think there’s a lot of them out there.

TVWeek: Well, let’s get them out of the closet. Barry, NBC Universal actually has some of the shows that cause controversy. I think `Maury’ is one of your shows. Has this indecency issue forced your company to look at these shows any differently or change any content?

Mr. Wallach: Pre-merger, Universal had very strict standards and practices that they adhered to on both of those shows [`Maury’ and `Springer’]. And post-merger, we’ve probably tightened it up even more, because you have to be aware and conscious of it. We worked closely with Tribune, who has those shows in most of the major markets. They are very good performers. In New York, it’s a very dominant lineup. So clearly the viewers, it goes back to Mark’s statement, whether it’s `Desperate Housewives’ or `Maury’ and `Jerry,’ these shows are very successful and very profitable for the stations and for us. Are we conscious of it? Absolutely. Do we watch every episode and try to anticipate the station needs and their concerns? 100 percent.

TVWeek: I’d like to open it up to questions from the floor.

Paul Ryan, Paul Ryan Productions: I am just curious if there is any talk for the future for more consciousness in television. Is there talk about creating something that may infuse optimism, personal growth, health or making a difference in people’s lives, like `Starting Over’ is actually doing?

TVWeek: I think `Starting Over’ does fit that mold, doesn’t it Barry? He’s talking about shows that incorporate a higher level of consciousness along with other entertainment content and so forth, but you’ve had `Starting Over’ and that strikes me as that kind of a show that not only entertains but inspires women to think about their own lives, doesn’t it?

Mr. Wallach: It’s reality, but last year a couple dozen women had new lives from it. Some very successfully. Some fell back-whatever is going to happen is going to happen. But it was a great experience for these women and some of them really turned their lives around, and I think that there’s a very loyal audience that watches it because it hits your point-that they really care about these women and what’s happening.

So, yeah, I think there’s opportunity out there for that kind of programming. But it’s called broadcasting for a reason. There’s all different types of shows and people want to watch all different types of things and there’s a lot of good stuff out there in syndication. Oprah Winfrey does a lot of great things. Newsmagazines will very often cover things of a lot of interest to people. Martha Stewart next year is going to be in that sort of inspirational vein that you are talking about, about giving advice and that kind of stuff. Some shows work, some don’t. It’s not all bad. And look, there’s a lot of closet watchers out there, like Mark said, who want the other stuff. And a lot of that stuff is on cable now. A lot of … what we are talking about here is in syndication.

TVWeek: Starting with Barry and going down the line, looking at NATPE in January, the traditional convention where the syndicators come together, what I want each of you to address is, Do you go? Why do you go? What business will you be doing this year? What does it mean to you? And then if there are any other points you want to wrap up, this would be a good moment.

Mr. Wallach: We’ve been big supporters of NATPE. Clearly, the convention has changed over the years as the industry has changed. This year, because it is a late selling season, I think there will be actual business done at NATPE. It’s not like it was 10 years ago, clearly. But there is still a tremendous value, relationships with the stations, advertisers, the cable networks, etcetera, etcetera, the producers on the production side. It’s still a great couple of days for everyone to be together. We are taking less space; everybody is taking less space. People are bringing less people now. There is less food, you know, that kind of stuff. Clearly the business has changed. There is still a tremendous value for it. I know Rick [Feldman, NATPE president and CEO] is here, and he worked really hard to keep the convention relevant. It’s an important thing to support, and this year there will be some business done there, as every year. Is it what it was 10 years ago as far as transactions? No. But long-term relationships, it’s worth it, and there are still some shows sold there.

TVWeek: Mark, will you be selling into the Mandalay Bay?

Mr. Itkin: Definitely not selling. One thing I’ve learned over the years, and I tell all my colleagues, it’s, `Do not pitch new products at NATPE.’ That is the last thing that any of the buyers want to hear. How to piss off a buyer in five seconds: Pitch them a new show. It’s just not the way to do it. It’s very important because I think, smartly, what Bruce [Johansen, former president and CEO, NATPE] and Rick have done is this big international component. Because international business, global business, is extremely important. It has all of the international buyers and sellers coming here. So you don’t have to go to a MIP or MIPCOM, which is extremely costly, and there is still a very healthy business going on between here and overseas. And it’s also important to show the support to our clients and be there with our clients who produce shows or are in front of the camera. And to also show the support to our buyers, that we are there to support them in the selling of the show and help them in any way that we can.

TVWeek: Don, NATPE is also an opportunity for the network to have affiliate meetings, isn’t it?

Mr. Corsini: Yes it is. And those meetings will be-I’m going. … We will as a group or as individual stations participate in NATPE. I think it’s an important convention. Most of the business, as we all know, is done prior to getting to NATPE, but there is still some business to be done. I support Rick and the job that he has done in bringing NATPE back to the forefront. I think it’s an important convention. And to Mark’s point, particularly internationally. It’s kind of fun going through, on the independent side of the equation, looking to see what kind of different product is available from different countries and different distributors. It’s an opportunity to move forward, so I enjoy the convention and I know our group enjoys the convention. So we will participate, absolutely.

TVWeek: Hilary?

Ms. Estey McLoughlin: I think you know it has an important value in terms of having face time with clients. … You hope that your major market deals are done before you get there and then just kind of continue the momentum and kind of lock up the rest of the stations that you need to launch shows. We also use this as an opportunity for talent to meet with stations so they can get a face-to-face where they have not had that opportunity. We also obviously are looking at the international market and cable, and that’s another good place to do that kind of business as well. I think it still has value, but it has definitely been scaled back and is not what it used to be.

TVWeek: Linda, over the years I’ve seen `ET
‘ do special production and stunts and participate in programs. Any plans for NATPE this year?

Ms. Blue: Like broadcasting the show from there?

TVWeek: Yeah, or how you might plan to promote `The Insider,’ for instance?

Ms. Blue: I can’t give away any secrets like that, Alex. I will say that I love NATPE. For me as a producer it’s so much fun because I just stand there and shake hands and try to talk people into upgrades, and I love it-and it’s in Las Vegas. So I am looking forward to it. And I think it’s coming back a little bit off life support. I’m enthused about going. There’s great food. Maybe not in the booth, but there is great food, and I’m away from the office and I’m there all the time.