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‘Beyond Twisted’ Takes Test Marketing to Next Level

May 10, 2009  •  Post A Comment

With syndication challenged by the rough economy, distribution companies are looking beyond the current business model for ways to pare spending and make their product more affordable for stations.
Larger distribution houses like Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and NBC Universal Television Distribution are initiating moves that would have seemed unthinkable a year ago, including test-market runs and moving production out of California and New York.
Warner Bros. is dipping its toe into the test-marketing pond this summer with Telepictures Productions’ “Beyond Twisted.” In an eight-week preview starting July 8, the show will air Monday through Friday on Fox Television Stations in New York, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Detroit, Phoenix and Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Executive producer Harvey Levin said the show uses “TMZ”-inspired storytelling devices using clips culled from around the world, including the Internet. The cast will be smaller than “TMZ’s,” he said, adding that they will provide commentary on the clips. Mr. Levin declined to provide more specifics.
“Beyond Twisted” shows the expansion of test marketing as a marketing tactic, one that has been used recently by other, smaller syndicators. Debmar-Mercury has heavily pursued test marketing, with last year’s test run of “The Wendy Williams Show” landing the program on the Fox Television Stations in July.
“My friends in distribution would probably disagree with me, but this [test marketing] is syndication. … This is the future of syndication.” said Frank Cicha, senior vice president of programming for the Fox Television Stations.
Mr. Cicha said mistakes in programming are more costly now than ever, meaning producers and stations need to mitigate risk.
Production costs also are being examined. NBC Universal announced late last month that “Deal or No Deal” would be produced at a new facility in Waterford, Conn., rather than in Culver City, Calif., where its primetime counterpart is shot. NBC Universal declined to comment on the future of the primetime “Deal.”
Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming with Katz Television Group, said that a year ago, leaving the production nest of Los Angeles would have been surprising. Now it’s all fair game, he said.
“The viewer doesn’t know where you produce the show,” he said. “What’s the difference of a show that’s produced in New York or California?”
“Deal” joins NBC Universal’s “Maury,” “The Jerry Springer Show” and “The Steve Wilkos Show” as programs making the move to Connecticut next season to take advantage of healthy tax incentives on production.
Cost pressures on production reflect the difficulties stations will have affording expensive shows as their advertising business contracts.
Mr. Carroll said shows that aren’t generating the ratings stations are anticipating are going to have to make changes in order to remain lucrative for broadcasters.
“There’s going to have to be some adjustment,” he said. “Those who adjust will survive. And those who don’t adjust, won’t.”

One Comment

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