Syndie Strips Lineup Falling Into Place

Jan 16, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The first-run syndication fall lineup took greater shape last week as executives prepared for next week’s National Association of Television Program Executives convention in Las Vegas.

Following extended negotiations that continued through late last week, Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and the Fox owned-and-operated stations are close to finalizing a deal to renew rookie talk strip “The Tyra Banks Show” for a second season.

The major-market Fox stations that agreed to carry “Tyra” next fall, plus additional markets where Warner Bros. has renewed the strip, represent more than 60 percent of the country, basically assuring the show will be back in syndication for 2006-07. That means Warner executives can meet with station buyers at the NATPE convention ready to sell a second season of the show in the markets not covered by the Fox deal.

This year’s NATPE convention is expected to attract 9,000 to 10,000 attendees, up from last year’s 8,000, according to the organization. Warner Bros. has been clearing more than just the second season of “Tyra.” The distributor and the Fox stations are also putting the final touches on clearing Warner Bros.’ new talk therapy strip hosted by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow.

By including the Fox stations, Warner has cleared the new strip in 80 percent of the country for fall 2006, according to a Warner Bros. excecutive. Some syndication experts suggested the Ablow strip would replace “Tyra’s” second run in Fox’s duopoly markets, but a Warner Bros. executive said “Tyra” would maintain both runs.

Warner Bros. had no comment on the deals. The Fox stations could not be reached for comment.

With “Tyra’s” imminent second-season pickup, all of the nationally syndicated first-run rookie strips from the 2005-06 television season will make it to year two. Twentieth Television’s “Judge Alex” and NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution’s “Martha” have already been renewed for sophomore seasons.

Aside from Dr. Ablow’s first-run strip, fall 2006 talk offerings include King World Productions’ “Rachael Ray,” Sony Pictures Television’s “The Greg Behrendt Show” and NBC Universal’s “Megan Mullally.” Courtroom shows from both Sony and Twentieth are assured September premieres, while Twentieth’s English-language telenovela strip “Desire” and its newsmagazine “Geraldo at Large” are also being sold.

In addition, fellow freshman first-run weekend hour “The Tom Joyner Show,” which Litton Entertainment distributes, has been renewed for September.

While distributors have cleared the majority of the country with their fall first-run offerings by the time they head to NATPE, the convention is still considered useful in mopping up the remainder of markets and introducing talent to the station community. Garnett Losak, VP and director of programming for Petry TV, said “Tyra’s” demo story was a big selling point for the show.

“In major markets where we have October and November books, there was really significant share growth in the key demos, where it went from a 4 share to a 6 share,” Ms. Losak said. “When you see that kind of growth and look at a market like New York City, where she is doing well, [the renewal] doesn’t surprise me. It’s earned a sophomore year.”

For most of the season “Tyra” has been outperforming its first-year competition, “Judge Alex” and “Martha,” in its target demos-women 18 to 34 and women 18 to 49-as well as outside its target with women 25 to 54. Tyra Banks, who in addition to hosting and executive producing her show also executive produces and hosts the UPN prime-time reality series “America’s Next Top Model,” has used the more established “Top Model” to help feed segment ideas and guests to the fledgling “Tyra.” That strategy has strengthened both shows, said John Rash, senior VP and director of broadcast operations for ad agency Campbell Mithun.

“She has done what few supermodels have been able to do, which is to develop a surviving and thriving second career with [each program] helping the other,” Mr. Rash said.

One of Ms. Banks’ regular guests during her first season in syndication was Dr. Ablow, who is wading into the therapy talk waters that are currently Phil McGraw’s domain in syndication.

“I like the idea,” Ms. Losak said of Dr. Ablow’s talk strip. “There is a raison d’etre for another therapy show. ‘Dr. Phil’ doesn’t have to own that business.”

Dr. Ablow, a former freelancer for Newsweek magazine and USA Today, has written several books, including “Without Mercy,” a true crime book that profiled the killer of a close friend of Mr. Ablow’s. He is also the author of a series of psychological thrillers.

On the first-run weekly front, “The Tom Joyner Show” has been renewed for a second season. The mostly late-night variety show fronted by the radio host Tom Joyner is picking up double runs in a number of top markets starting as early as first quarter 2006, including New York, Chicago, Washington, Orlando, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.

In Philadelphia on WPHL-TV, “Joyner” started out with a single Saturday midnight run, but is adding a second airing at 8 p.m. (ET) starting Jan. 21, said Marty Raab, president of Reach Media Television Productions, Mr. Joyner’s production company.

“The ideal time seems to be a 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. run,” Mr. Raab said of the show, but noted “Joyner” is flexible enough to run earlier on nontraditional stations that lack weekend network programming. “Tom’s comedy is fresh enough that it can still run in a prime-time hour.”

While “Joyner” is currently cleared in 70 percent of the country, improving time periods within its current markets will be as important as increasing clearances for a second season, Mr. Raab said: “We are looking for new affiliates, but we are also working with current affiliates

to get the best times that work for us.”