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‘TMZ’ Positioning for ‘Geraldo’ Slots

Jan 15, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Executives at Warner Bros. and the Fox Television Stations are in the process of finalizing an agreement to air upcoming newsmagazine “TMZ” on Fox-owned outlets starting this fall.

The deal could be announced as early as Tuesday.

“TMZ,” based on the entertainment news Web site TMZ.com, is considered a potential replacement for the canceled newsmagazine series “Geraldo at Large” in many markets.

“Geraldo” had performed well in the ratings but was losing money for distributor Twentieth Television, the Fox stations’ programming and distribution arm. The budget for “Geraldo” had ballooned to nearly twice the original estimate for the show, one source close to the production said. The production is slated to shut down mid-January and exit the Fox lineup at the end of the month.

Fox’s deal for “TMZ,” according to an executive involved with negotiations, has “one or two points” left to pin down before completing the agreement.

For “TMZ,” the sale, which would include key stations in New York and Los Angeles, would immediately make the series a go for the 2007 season. Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution would also have the first key clearances of any of its series in development.

The syndicator is also meeting with stations to sell “Celebrity Jury,” with ex-Westchester County, N.Y., District Attorney Jeanine Pirro in place to serve as judge for the show.

Analysts have been impressed by “TMZ’s” success online and are anticipating strong viewership for the show.

“We consider TMZ.com a new-age `Celebrity Justice’ on a multiplatform level,” said Greg Conklin, senior programmer and director of programming for Katz Television Group, in the company’s annual review of upcoming syndicated series. “TMZ.com could be a viable option and could also be used to revive late-fringe time periods, paired with a newscast or sitcom.”

“TMZ,” 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. Mel Gibson’s tirade following his DUI arrest was among the site’s biggest scoops. The series will be based in Los Angeles.

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, according to reports.

A Warner Bros. spokesperson would not comment on the status of the company’s series.