The station group’s leader, Valari Staab, is betting two new syndicated shows — Steve Harvey from NBCUniversal and Jeff Probst from CBS Television Distribution — will flow nicely with current shows and help turn around the fortunes of her 10 stations.
When Valari Staab took over NBC Owned Television Stations just over a year ago, she got right to work revamping the group’s ailing daytime schedule, adding midday news to the seven stations that didn’t already have it.
But Staab’s boldest moves in daytime come with the start of the fall season. She will be adding two new high-profile, first-run syndicated talk shows — Steve Harvey from NBCUniversal and Jeff Probst from CBS Television Distribution.
On all 10 NBC Owned stations, Steve Harvey will air at 2 p.m. or 3 p.m. leading into Ellen, creating a funny-talk block before the evening news. Like Ellen DeGeneres, Harvey is a standup comic.
Steve debuts on Tuesday, Sept. 4 and is taping at NBC’s WMAQ Chicago.
Jeff, which premieres a week later on Sept. 10, will air on eight NBC stations, all except WMAQ Chicago and WRC Washington. On five stations, including WNBC New York and KNBC Los Angeles, Jeff will lead out of the soap Days of Our Lives and into the Steve–Ellen block.
Staab believes the newcomers complement the two cornerstone of the schedule — NBC’s Today in the morning and Ellen in the afternoon and give the station a nice flow of news and light-hearted entertainment.
“Today is a very strong franchise,” says Staab, who joined NBC from ABC’s KGO San Francisco. “Even the third and fourth hours do well. They set the tone for the day, but you don’t want to overdose on it. Today has a lot of celebrities, which is why I was interested in real people on the other shows.”
The NBC daytime troubles are well documented. In New York in May, for instance, WNBC ranked No. 5 among stations in daytime (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) with a 1.3 rating and 5 share, behind WABC (2.8/10), WCBS (2.2/7), Tribune Broadcasting’s WPIX (1.6/6) and Fox’s WNYW (1.4/5).
“Having real program choices in daytime is part of rebuilding these stations into strong broadcast operations,” Staab says. “As much as people say lead-ins are less important with DVRs, lead-ins are very important.
“If you doubt it, look at the early news ratings during the Olympics. They did huge numbers. So, building your entire day is important. You can’t just ignore big chunks of it.”
NBC stations will have similar midday programming linking Today and Days.
“Most have Access Hollywood Live, then news — or vice versa,” Staab says. “Some stations will have Millionaire. Some stations will have an hour newscast, instead of a half-hour. In New York, they are taking their 3 p.m. local show (New York Live) and turning it into a half-hour after the midday news.”
Staab likes that Steve is being produced at WMAQ. “It makes us more representative of the entire country. And being at one of our stations gives us a local show for one of our biggest markets.”
Ellen and Steve are so compatible that the distributors — Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal, respectively — worked together to promote the block. That included promos that aired during the just-concluded Summer Olympics.
“We made a big commitment in Olympics inventory,” Staab says. “We did three great spots …. It was a lot of fun and it was of a quality you want to see in Olympics programming.”
Survivor host Jeff Probst doesn’t fit in with Ellen quite as seamlessly as Steve. But the Donahue-style show, where Probst interacts with the audience — and sometimes celebrities — about everyday issues, plays up Probst’s upbeat personality and his positive outlook on life.
“Jeff is very engaging,” she says. “He has the ability to draw people out. That’s what you need. He listens and is very interested in what you have to say.”
All three shows – Jeff, Steve and Ellen, have been picked up through the 2013-14 season, giving the NBC stations a shot at stability they haven’t had for some time.
Staab promises patience with the newcomers. “You can’t expect a show to come out of the gate with guns blazing,” she says. “The audience needs to get to know the hosts. I think we are sometimes too quick to pull a show.”
“A show needs to be the vision of the host and the producers,” Staab says. “We’re not intrusive in terms of telling them what topics and segments it has to have. But we care and we stayed involved. And we have been very involved in marketing because we want to make sure both shows have every chance possible to succeed.”