Fall Syndie Lineup Is Getting ‘Better’

Oct 28, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Last week was a wild one in syndicated program development, adding a magazine show, Donald Trump and a Trivial Pursuit game show to the rich mix of programming designed to launch in fall 2008.
Meredith Broadcasting has been quietly building “Better,” a magazine strip that launched in 12 markets last month, and plans to take the show national next season.
“Better,” an hourlong lifestyle show based on the media company’s magazine Better Homes & Gardens, was originally developed for the group’s own stations, but launched in September with three Journal Broadcast Group stations on board as well. The business model isn’t dependent on barter, and stations picking up the strip will pay a modest license fee for rights to air it.
“We view this as where the future is going,” said Paul Karpowicz, president of the Mere­dith Broadcasting Group. “We’ve run local TV stations and have a clear understanding of what they are looking for. By bringing ‘Better’ to the mix, stations will not only not pay a lot for license fees, they will be able to develop new ways to make money by selling locally and getting away from the 30-second format.”
The new series echoes the successful format developed for “PM Magazine” in the 1970s and ’80s, which enabled stations to not only place a local host on the screen, but to incorporate local stories and advertisers during portions of the program as well.
“This is a model that works, with a backbone of national stories and content but with a very local presence,” Mr. Karpowicz said. “That’s the beauty of it, and stations will be able to take as much or as little content as they please, all with the backing of a nationally recognized brand.”
Although stations have the op­tion of providing a host, the format features Kimberly Maus broadcasting out of KPTV-TV in Portland, Ore., and former Fox Sports reporter Audra Lowe co-hosting from Meredith’s newly built studios in New York.
With “Better” officially on the table, the slew of first-run syndicated programming available for 2008 continues to grow. Last week Debmar-Mercury said it had snagged rights to its own national brand in “Trivial Pursuit: America Plays” in a deal with the game’s manufacturer, Hasbro.
Sources said executives are aggressively selling the show and could be targeting a pairing with NBC’s upcoming daytime version of “Deal or No Deal” on its O&O stations.
“In partnering with Hasbro, we have every intention of taking this worldwide brand and making this the best possible show for television,” said Debmar-Mercury Co-President Ira Bernstein. “Other new game shows we’ve seen in recent years have cut budgets, and that is clearly reflected when you watch the show. However, we have a contractual commitment with Hasbro that not only requires both of us to promote the show but to put the dollars into the look and feel of the series that will add to the richness of the program.”
The company will be working with Wheeler-Sussman Productions to produce the half-hour strip. Wheeler-Sussman developed the game’s format and created unique interactive elements to allow viewers to be a part of the game from home while driving local station Web site participation.
Another company said to be eyeballing the NBC stations for a deal is Twentieth Television, which is set to produce a Trump-hosted series for daytime in which the mogul will mediate financial disputes. Reveille and Trump Productions are executive producers of the series, to be shot in New York’s Trump Tower.
Mr. Trump would join a lineup of potent series being developed by distributors after years of downsizing. Already cleared in local markets to various degrees are Warner Bros.’ “Bonnie Hunt,” NBC Universal’s “Deal or No Deal” and CBS TV Distribution’s “The Doctors,” the “Dr. Phil” spinoff. “The Doctors” has snagged clearances in 50 percent of the country, including all of the top 10 markets.
“We are on terrific stations and on strong time periods, and this show will only make lineups stronger,” said Roger King, CEO of CBS TV Distribution. “The response we’ve had has been exciting.”


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