‘TMZ’ Strip Next in Line for ’07 Debut

Dec 18, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Warner Bros.’ syndicated newsmagazine “TMZ,” based on the popular Web site, could be the next first-run Monday-through-Friday series confirmed to come out of the gate for the 2007 season.

The studio has been quietly entering talks with stations to acquire the strip, station and studio sources confirmed. Fox Television Stations in particular have been eyeing the series to potentially be paired with fellow newsmagazine “Geraldo at Large,” which Fox Stations programming arm Twentieth Television distributes, in several markets, the sources said.

Although early, a disagreement about price is the main factor holding off a deal between Warner Bros. and Fox on the show, one Fox source said. However, a spokesperson for Warner Bros. denied that the companies were in serious talks about “TMZ.”

Whether Fox picks up the strip or not, “TMZ” appears to clearly be moving ahead in development and could help fill a barren 2007 new programming landscape.

The series, from former “Extra” and “Celebrity Justice” producer Harvey Levin, will be based on the TMZ.com Web site that has broken a number of celebrity scandals over the past year, including Mel Gibson’s tirade following his DUI arrest.

The Web site and potential strip, named after the production term for the “Thirty Mile Zone” surrounding Los Angeles, had more than 10 million unique page views in July and more than 11 million after news of Mr. Gibson’s arrest had broken.

The syndication industry is potentially facing its smallest number of new offerings ever this year with only one new strip, Sony Picture Television’s “Judge David Young,” officially announced to air next fall. The series has cleared nearly 60 percent of the country, including the Fox Television Stations group.

With few time periods available next year, especially in the all-important New York and Los Angeles markets, many distributors are waiting for confirmed openings before moving forward with their projects. This is in stark contrast with business several years ago, when many series were announced a year or more in advance.