WEB EXCLUSIVE: Backstage With Megan Mullally

Aug 21, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Launching a new daytime talk show into syndication has never been easy, but over the past few seasons the marketplace has made it even more difficult for the next generation of “Oprah” hopefuls.

Daytime ratings are down, costs are up and viewers have more choices than ever thanks to cable and the Internet. Those concerns have not stopped NBC Universal Television Distribution, which this year is launching a talk show with Emmy winner Megan Mullally, best known to TV audiences for playing the character Karen Walker on the comedy “Will & Grace” for eight years.

Starting today, TelevisionWeek will explore the challenges associated with launching a new syndicated show today by profiling various aspects of what it will take to get “The Megan Mullally Show” off the ground.

Reports will be featured online at TVWeek.com each week leading up to the show’s Sept. 18 premiere. Among the topics to be covered: the creative direction of the new talk show, NBCU’s promotional strategy for the show and how local stations are preparing for “Megan’s” launch.

Syndication is a relatively new venture for NBC, which formed NBC Enterprises in 2001 and saw a significant increase in its syndication business when it bought Universal (the producer-distributors of “The Maury Povich Show” and “The Jerry Springer Show”) in 2004.

With a launch in many top markets on the NBC Universal-owned and operated stations, “Megan” joins the company’s other Monday-through-Friday syndicated talk show—the sophomore series “Martha,” hosted by Martha Stewart. NBC Universal’s other successful strip, or Monday-through-Friday show, actually predates the creation of NBC Enterprises. The 10-year-old entertainment newsmagazine “Access Hollywood” has been the company’s most profitable syndication franchise.

In its five-year history, the company’s track record has been mixed. In addition to bringing “Martha” back for a second season, NBC Universal Television Distribution, as the company’s syndication division is now known, has had success with some of its weekend half-hours. But its daytime strips “The Other Half,” “The John Walsh Show,” “Starting Over,” “Home Delivery” and “The Jane Pauley Show” all came and went in short order.

NBCU’s performance in the market is on par with many of its competitors, who have also spent significant time and money launching new talk shows—think Buena Vista’s Tony Danza project and Sony’s show with Pat Croce, just to name a few—but have gotten little in return from viewers.

“Megan” is entering an established market and a fall schedule with more debuting talk strips than last season. King World, which initially courted Ms. Mullally for a daytime show until NBCU snapped her up, is producing a new series for Food Network’s Rachael Ray, while Warner Bros. is launching a project with psychiatrist Dr. Keith Ablow, and Sony is debuting a strip with comedian Greg Behrendt.


Behind the Screen: Setting Up Shop