‘Megan’ in the Local Markets

Sep 4, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Like the old saying about politics, all syndication is local.

That is particularly true for NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution’s “The Megan Mullally Show,” said Sean O’Boyle, senior VP and general sales manager for the company.

Unlike a straight talk show that covers the topic of the day or a strictly formatted court series, “Megan’s” tone incorporates comedy, celebrity chat and the host’s unique personality. To help viewers understand that, “Megan” needs to be positioned with creatively compatible shows.

“When you have a show like ‘Megan,’ you really have to target it,” Mr. O’Boyle said. “You want to match a show to a station’s personality.”

Without a network or a common feed, promoting syndicated shows is tough for companies like NBC Universal, since a “check your local listings” reminder at the bottom of a national ad weakens the message to potential viewers.

“Megan” has the benefit of a station group sale on its sister NBC station group, and the syndicator has been sending Ms. Mullally out to key markets to promote. But it’s nearly impossible for her to visit every one of the more than 100 markets where the show is airing.

Targeting is important not only in terms of creative fit. It also ensures NBC Universal is working with the most enthusiastic stations for their product. That enthusiasm translates to market-specific, station-led promotion, something NBC Universal can’t buy.

That’s what NBC Universal did in Orlando, Fla., where “Megan” has been cleared on WFTV-TV, the Cox Communications-owned ABC affiliate in the 19th-largest market.

Scheduled to air at 10 a.m. (ET), “Megan” is filling the spot previously held by Buena Vista’s canceled strip “The Tony Danza Show,” explained John Keyes, program manager for WFTV. “Megan” will have the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” as its lead-in.

Taking a cue from NBC Universal, which is touting “Megan” as a comedic talk show with many humorous elements, Mr. Keyes is hoping the Monday-through-Friday series lives up to its promise, because its tone makes it appropriate for the time period.

“This show is more of an entertainment vehicle for what they are planning it to be, rather than a more serious talk show, which works more with a game show element,” he said.

“Danza,” which also contained more comedic and entertainment elements than the average talk show, did well in Orlando, Mr. Keyes said, so he also expects “Megan” to perform at 10 a.m.

“It should fit better in the morning,” he said. “It will have a platform to start gaining viewers from.”

Competitively in Orlando, “Megan” faces soap opera “Guiding Light” on the CBS station, part two of morning show “Today” on NBC, a court block on the Fox station, a comedy block on the MyNetworkTV station, a potential talk competitor on the soon-to-be CW station and local news on WFTV’s own independent duopoly.

“It’s a competitive time period,” Mr. Keyes said. “We’re expecting ‘Megan’ to hopefully do well against those shows if they do what they say they going to do.”

Specifically, Mr. Keyes is expecting “Megan” executive producer Corin Nelson to deliver the kind of show she produced when she was running Telepictures’ “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.”

“We’re expecting that experience to play into it, and we hope it plays into it strongly, but as you know, all talk shows are a risk,” he said.

Dozens of “can’t miss” talk show talents have come and failed in the marketplace, Mr. Keyes said, noting that relatability and ability to entertain are the two most important elements for success on his station.

“That’s no guarantee it works,” he said. “It’s more who’s running the show and how they can make that show resonate with the viewers.”

Pairing ‘Megan’ in Milwaukee

“Megan” is currently cleared in about 95 percent of the country, mostly on traditional affiliates, Mr. O’Boyle said. The show is scheduled to run in early fringe, the time periods between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. (ET), in a few key markets-most notably on the NBC Universal-owned stations in New York and Los Angeles. But the bulk of clearances have been in the morning.

ABC affiliate WISN-TV in Milwaukee is one of several Hearst-Argyle Television stations going with “Megan” in the a.m.

“We do very well in that whole morning block,” Dean Maytag, WISN’s director of broadcast operations, said, noting that the show is scheduled for 11 a.m. (CT), replacing NBC Universal’s canceled daytime reality series “Starting Over.” The station runs Buena Vista TV’s “Live with Regis and Kelly” at 9 a.m. and ABC’s “The View” at 10 a.m.

“‘Starting Over,’ frankly, did pretty well,” Mr. Maytag said, noting the show won its time period in female demos in July. “But we’re in a really good position with ‘Megan.’ It’s good flow.”

Competitively, “Megan” will face Telepictures’ debuting talker “The Dr. Keith Ablow Show” on the Fox station, local news on the NBC affiliate, “The Young and the Restless” on CBS, a comedy block on the MyNetworkTV station and possibly “The 700 Club” on the new CW affiliate.

WISN in Milwaukee promotes its syndicated shows “pretty heavily,” Mr. Maytag said, explaining that the NBC Universal spots touting the show have been in heavy rotation.

“People are commenting on them, which is rare,” he said. “We like the spots. They have a nice feel.”

Ms. Mullally recently did a live satellite shot for the station at a summer sales party that featured local advertisers.

“It was very nice,” Mr. Maytag said, “It was very helpful.”

Like Mr. Maytag, Orlando’s Mr. Keyes is looking forward to “Megan” fitting in with the current schedule. But Mr. Keyes pointed out that his station has much to offer “Megan” as well.

“This is a good platform for a show like that,” Mr. Keyes said. “If it doesn’t work here, that’s usually a sign it’s probably not going to do well, because this station is going to give it a good platform to work.”