Syndie Sets Fall Starts, Plans Push

Jun 1, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The countdown to the new syndication season is officially on.
Following a relatively successful syndication season in 2007 that saw more series returning to than departing from the airwaves, distributors have locked down launch dates for the new crop of shows joining station schedules this fall—a wide mix of genres that has left industry experts scratching their heads as to who will wind up a winner.
Monday, Sept. 8, is the key date for syndicators next season, with the vast majority of rookie shows, ranging from NBC’s “Deal or No Deal” to Sony’s “Judge Karen,” debuting that week and a slew of veteran players returning on that date as well. With marketing budgets down across the board at distribution companies and viewers’ attention spans continually getting shorter, studios will use the summer to unleash their promotional campaigns.
The consolidation of the syndicated TV marketplace has brought to an end the days when syndicators could justify $15 million to $20 million launch campaigns that blanketed the media landscape. Viewer erosion has lowered the bar of syndicated program success from a 4.0 household rating a decade ago to a 1.0 rating today.
Along with the falling ratings, marketing budgets shrank. Some launch campaigns for first-run series in recent years have cost as little as $1 million, according to syndication executives who asked not to be named.
Perhaps the highest-profile show to hit the syndication airwaves—and the one that carries the burden of the highest expectations—is NBC Universal’s syndicated version of prime-time hit “Deal or No Deal,” which debuts Sept. 8.
“We’ve assembled an incredibly strong station lineup and created a dynamic promotional campaign to help launch ‘Deal’ in national syndication,” said Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution. “With the show’s proven brand and Howie Mandel at the helm, our efforts this fall will focus on creating awareness that ‘Deal’ will now be on local stations five days a week.”
Another big-brand game show entering the scene is “Trivial Pursuit: America Plays” from distributor Debmar-Mercury, set to debut Sept. 22 in more than 90% of the country. It’s backed by a huge promotional campaign with game maker Hasbro.
“In partnering with Hasbro, we have every intention of taking this worldwide brand and making this the best possible show for television,” said Ira Bernstein, Debmar-Mercury co-president. “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.”
Veteran game shows “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” return with new episodes Sept. 8. Also due back that day is Disney-ABC Domestic Television’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.”
As for talk shows, CBS Television Distribution’s “Dr. Phil” spinoff “The Doctors” will debut Sept. 8, as will Warner Bros.’ “The Bonnie Hunt Show” and Meredith’s “Better.”
Among veterans, series such as CBS’ “Dr. Phil,” Warners’ “Ellen” and NBC Universal’s “Jerry Springer” and “Maury” will return with new episodes that week. The following week will see new seasons of sophomore “Steve Wilkos” and “Martha Stewart,” also from NBC.
“As we did with ‘TMZ,’ we will use the summer to create and build upon awareness for the debut of ‘The Bonnie Hunt Show,’” said Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “To compete in today’s first-run marketplace, a show must have a comprehensive marketing strategy, which is implemented months before the premiere and evolves throughout the year.”
Within the court genre, three new series are poised to hit the lineups this fall. Sony Pictures Television is premiering its new court show “Judge Karen” Sept. 8, the same day Program Partners court show “Family Court” debuts. Meanwhile, Warner’s “Judge Jeanine Pirro” premiere is locked in for Sept. 22.
Almost every veteran series in the category is coming back simultaneously, with “Judge Judy,” “Judge Joe Brown,” “Divorce Court,” “Judge Alex,” “Cristina’s Court” and “Judge David Young” all set to return Sept. 8.
In the off-net and off-cable genre, only one new sitcom strip will enter the fray: Debmar-Mercury’s “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne” begins its syndication run Sept. 22. A number of off-cable strips will be taking the stage, with “Punk’d” debuting Sept. 29 from Trifecta and Litton’s “Cribs,” “Pimp My Ride” and “Storm Stories” all on the schedule for the week of Sept. 29.
On the weekly side, NBC’s new off-net shows “Monk” and “House” will enter the scene the weekend of Sept. 27, as will Twentieth’s runs of “Boston Legal.” Disney’s “Desperate Housewives” debuts the weekend of Sept. 20.
Debmar-Mercury’s off-cable runs of “American Chopper” are slated to premiere the week of Sept. 22. Trifecta also will bring in its new acquisition “American Idol Rewind” to schedules the week of Sept. 22.
Disney is still pinning down a date for “Wizard’s First Rule,” its attempt to revive the first-run fantasy genre; it’s likely to bow in late fall.


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