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Off-Net, Off-Cable Series Filling Weekend Slots

Nov 25, 2007  •  Post A Comment

With the days of first-run hits such as “Xena” and “Baywatch” long gone, weekend syndication is poised to become an even greater stomping ground for off-net and off-cable series in the 2008 season.
While off-cable series such as “American Chopper” from Debmar-Mercury, “Monk” from NBC Universal and “Pimp My Ride” from Litton prepare for their broadcast debuts, few companies are slating new original development specifically for the weekend ranks.
One company, Heads and Tails Productions, is aiming to change that with upcoming series “Doctors Foster & Smith’s Faithful Friends.”
The new half-hour weekly series will be hosted by horse enthusiast Wanda Goldberg, wife of actor and pro wrestling star Bill Goldberg, and is being sold to syndication by New Visions Syndication.
The series will offer pet tips and sage advice from well-known veterinarians and animal experts, along with appearances by celebrity pet owners such as NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton, Martha Stewart pet guru Marc Marrone, and ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill.
The series will be co-executive produced by Heads and Tails chief Tony Loiacono and Rodney Jacobs of Freewheelin’ Films.
“Be it dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, hamsters, coral or fish, more than 60% of homes in America have a pet,” Mr. Loiacono said. “In most homes, pets are valued members of the family, and pet owners are very concerned about providing their animals a happy, healthful, long life. So with the support of [pet supply company] Doctors Foster & Smith, we created an engaging television series that not only features celebrities that dearly love animals, but also provides helpful answers to common pet concerns.”
The once-prominent slate of original programming for weekend syndication has given way this decade to off-net, off-cable and repurposed series. Some distributors did launch first-run series this season, such as Trifecta’s new shows based on the UFC and Jack Hanna. But the 2008 season so far has even fewer shows on deck.
One proposal distributors such as Litton and Radar are presenting to stations is the option of running shows either stripped from Monday through Friday or as weekend programming blocks.
“Weekend syndication, with the success of ‘CSI’ and now ‘Law & Order,’ is seeing that the procedural has become the dominant force on weekend programming lineups,” said Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Media. “With the number of dramatic hours available for 2008, it will be interesting to see whether the new shows will have the same degree of success.”
So far this season, the top-rated first-run series in syndication is Disney/ABC’s “Ebert & Roeper,” with a 1.5 season average, followed by “The Chris Matthews Show” from NBC Universal at 1.5.
Meanwhile, off-net and off-cable dramas continue to expand, with CBS’ “CSI: Miami” earning a 4.0 while Warner Bros.’ “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case” tied for second with 2.2.
New series in play for the 2008 season include Twentieth’s “Boston Legal,” CBS’ “CSI: New York,” Disney/ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and NBC Universal’s “House.” Off-cable fare includes Debmar-Mercury’s “American Chopper,” “Pimp My Ride” from Litton, “Monk” from NBCU and “Cribs” from Trifecta. Other cable series are rumored to be on deck for syndie play, such as Sony’s “Rescue Me,” with announcements expected as the NATPE conference approaches.

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