Off-Network Hours Clearing for 2008

Nov 11, 2007  •  Post A Comment

With November sweeps in full swing, syndicators already are scoring deals for 2008-09 program offerings, including two off-net series, “Boston Legal” from Twentieth Television and “Storm Stories” from Litton.
In addition, heated talks are under way between syndicators and major station groups for other product as Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, CBS Television Distribution and NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution fill out their clearances.
“Storm Stories,” the off-cable series that originally aired on the Weather Channel, has now nailed two of the top three markets, Los Angeles and Chicago, for next season. The unscripted series, which features the clash between Mother Nature and unsuspecting individuals, has quickly proved to be a viable alternative buy for station GMs.
“Station group heads and GM’s, programmers and news directors, sales managers and Web managers, meteorologists and anchors see ‘Storm Stories’ as a smart news branding extension,” said Dave Morgan, president and CEO of Litton Entertainment. “They are bidding for the program aggressively. Daily local newscasts confirm that weather proves to deliver substantial, valuable audiences.”
Picking up the series either as a strip or as a weekend block are stations from the CBS, Fox, ABC, Gannett, Cox, Weigel, Media General, Clear Channel, Tribune and Scripps groups. Stations include KCAL-TV/KCBS-TV in Los Angeles, WGN-TV in Chicago, WSB-TV in Atlanta, WTSP-TV in Tampa, Fla., and KPHO-TV in Phoenix.
As part of the package for “Storm Stories,” stations will be given the option to localize the shows by incorporating their own meteorologists into the program as hosts. One station, KUSA-TV in Denver, will utilize a “Storm Stories” episode in prime time in December to promote the series on-air. The episode focuses on snowmobilers caught in a blizzard in Winter Park, Colo., whose rescuers also need to be rescued.
“As the top local news station in Atlanta, I can say that weather is very important to news and one big reason viewers watch our broadcasts,” said Art Rogers, general manager of WSB. “This is a great opportunity for us to localize the production. That’s a model I know works for us and we are looking forward to this opportunity.”
The series, which began its Weather Channel run in 2003, will be broken down from its original hourlong format into 143 half-hour episodes, with the potential for additional production.
During its successful run on the Weather Channel, “Storm Stories” proved to be a ratings asset, increasing the channel’s household ratings by 81% and ratings among adults 25 to 54 by 67% over previous prime-time programming, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Twentieth Television has announced that Emmy Award-winning dramedy “Boston Legal” has cleared 50% of the country for its weekly syndication debut next year, with the ABC-owned stations playing a key part in the sale. Among the new ABC-owned affiliates onboard are KABC-TV in Los Angeles, WLS-TV in Chicago, KTRK-TV in Houston and KGO-TV in San Francisco. In addition, the series will run on KXAS-TV in Dallas, WXYZ-TV in Detroit, WHDH-TV in Boston and WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.
“Boston Legal” is in its fourth season on ABC; David E. Kelley and Bill D’Elia are its executive producers.
Among the first-run crowd, CBS’ “The Doctors” has now racked up 75% of the country for its fall debut, with 65% of the markets sold set to air the “Dr. Phil” spinoff in early fringe. Warner Bros. has cleared 65% of the country, including 16 of the top 20 markets, for its upcoming talk show featuring comedian and actress Bonnie Hunt.

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