Stations Stock Up on Syndicated Fare

Mar 16, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Despite crowded weekend lineups on station schedules, studios continue to find room to make syndication sales, with first-run programming being snapped up alongside off-net and off-cable shows.
Disney-ABC Television Group has brought the clearance level for first-run fantasy hour “Wizard’s First Rule” to 84% of the nation in the six weeks since the series was announced at NATPE. That includes all of the top 50 markets, a strong start for the company’s effort to bring first-run scripted programming back to the weekend lineup.
NBC Universal is beefing up sales of upcoming off-net and off-cable series “House” and “Monk” to cover 99% of the country.
News Corp.’s Twentieth Television also is hitting the weekend sales scene, clearing “Boston Legal” in 92% of the U.S., including the top 50 markets for fall 2008, and “Bones” in 75% of the nation for 2009.
The first-run offerings recall one of television syndication’s sunny moments in the 1990s, when hours “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “Xena: Warrior Princess” scored huge ratings for stations.
“Wizards” may generate heat in the advertising marketplace for time slots on Saturdays and Sundays, said Mitch Burg, president of the Syndicated Network Television Association.
“This was once one of the strongest brands in all of television,” Mr. Burg said of the sci-fi/fantasy genre. “I think you’ll find that the show could give advertisers an important reason to look at weekend syndication again.”
NBC Universal got an early start on sales, which helped its position, said Sean O’Boyle, senior VP and general sales manager of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution.
“We have a nice mix of both off-network scripted series as well as first-run that has been successful for us on the weekends,” he said. “It’s a crowded marketplace, and we were fortunate enough to be out there early with quality series such as ‘House,’ ‘Monk’ and ‘Law & Order: SVU’ before the market became flooded.”
“House,” Fox’s highest-rated scripted series, has been sold to stations from the Fox, CBS, Tribune, Sinclair, Clear Channel and Meredith groups, among others. Major-market outlets set to air “House” in syndication include WNYW-TV in New York, KTTV-TV in Los Angeles, WFLD-TV in Chicago and KPIX-TV in San Francisco.
Meanwhile, “Monk,” one of the highest-rated scripted series in basic-cable history, has been sold to stations from the NBC, CBS, Fox, Hearst-Argyle, Tribune, Fisher, Scripps, Raycom, Belo, Post-Newsweek and other groups. Top markets for “Monk” include WNBC-TV in New York, KNBC-TV in Los Angeles and WFLD-TV in Chicago, as well as WPHL-TV in Philadelphia, WSBK-TV in Boston, KNTV-TV in San Francisco and WFAA-TV in Dallas.
“‘House’ and ‘Monk’ are two of the most successful shows in their respective genres over the last decade, and both will make ideal weekend programming for local broadcasters,” Mr. O’Boyle said.
NBC Universal continues to find success with its homegrown product as well, with “The Chris Matthews Show,” one of the highest-rated morning news/public affairs show on television, “Your Total Health” and “Reel Talk,” which just launched this season.
Also investing in first-run series is Disney-ABC, whose “Wizard’s” has racked up “outstanding clearances across the country,” said Jed Cohen, executive VP/general sales manager, Disney-ABC Domestic Television. “To have reached over 84% coverage in less than six weeks is a true testament to this concept, the show’s creative team and the appetite for network-quality, scripted programming in broadcast syndication.”
The ABC Studios-produced scripted series has been sold to launch group Tribune Broadcasting Co. stations, as well as outlets for CBS Television Stations Group, Sinclair Broadcast Group, Hearst-Argyle Television, Clear Channel Broadcasting, and Gannett Broadcasting.
Updated: Spelling correction for Mitch Burg.


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