Broadcasters find more new first-run fare than they expected at the annual programming conference. Panels range from reality programming to how stations can use digital platforms to survive and thrive. (Day 3 stories are highlighted in red.)
What a difference a day—and a few deals—makes.
Last month, even just last week, it looked like there would be very few new shows for stations to look at during this year’s NATPE programming conference in Las Vegas. Some rumblings of projects began to emerge toward the end of last week and by the end of the show’s first full day yesterday, the picture was quite different.
Late last week some first-run news began to break, most of it from independent producers, not the major Hollywood syndicators.
Indie syndicator October Moon Television and reality producer Bunim-Murray Productions announced Laugh Off, a half-hour first-run comedy/game series, with October Moon seeking cash and keeping one minute and 30 seconds in national barter time.
Another indie, Program Partners, joined with game show maven Merv Griffin and the William Morris Agency to introduce Crosswords, a half-hour game show strip offered on a cash basis.
Then this week came news from the some of the majors. Warner Bros. sold its entertainment news magazine TMZ to the Fox O&Os, with stations in markets including New York, Los Angeles and Chicago slated to begin carrying the half-hour series this fall.
On Tuesday, NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution officially announced its new syndicated series starring Steve Wilkos, formerly of the Jerry Springer Show, and made sales to the Tribune and Sinclair station groups.
MGM announced it would continue its Stargate: SG-1 franchise with two new movies with the Sci Fi series’ cast on board, available to TV stations.
The only new first-run show that was a certainty well before the show’s opening, was Sony Pictures Television’s Judge David Young. The principal reason given for the shortage is that only daytime is in play. Other dayparts are locked up by perennials like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! (prime access) and Oprah and Dr. Phil (early fringe). If anything, the dealmaking in these dayparts revolves around renewals.
Another reason for the puny first-run output may be the organizational changes at major syndicators over the past several months, which, some say, disrupted normal development work.
And there were new shows available from some of the smaller distributors. Alfred Haber announced two new titles to add to its three returning shows. Televisa brought four new telenovelas and three formats to Las Vegas.
One project that was creating some buzz recently never happened. Broadcasters are interested in a daytime version of NBC’s primetime game show Deal or No Deal, but NBC Universal decided not to offer it at NATPE. It may yet come on the market later for the 2008-09 season.
Another show fell through when Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution pulled its high-profile Celebrity Jury court strip off the market for fall after failing to come to terms with the Fox station group on price. But the project may not be dead entirely and could make a comeback sometime later, B&C reports.
The same week that Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was canceled as a first-run series, it popped up in syndication from NBCU. It will air as a strip on NBC-owned stations in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with other markets in discussions as well.
The renewal action was pretty steady, with announcements starting before the convention’s opening.
Litton announced almost two weeks ago that renewals for its long-running Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures covered more than 90% of the country—including 47 of the top 50 markets—for the 2007-08 season.
Sony Pictures Television boosted clearance levels for its trio of fall court shows—newly introduced Judge David Young and returnees Judge Maria Lopez and Judge Hatchett.
Buena Vista Television has renewed both Live with Regis and Kelly and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire through the 2010-2011 season.
Twentieth Television has renewed its three court shows, Divorce Court, Judge Alex and Christina’s Court, and added a dozen more Sinclair stations to its Family Guy lineup for 2007-08.
CBS Television Distribution renewed its freshman smash Rachael Ray through 2009-10 and racked up clearances from CBS, Gannett, Post-Newsweek, Scripps Howard, McGraw-Hill and Evening Telegram stations. Two weeks before NATPE, CBS said it had renewed its perennial game show tandem, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! through the 2011-12 season.
On Wednesday, Litton Entertainment announced three renewals after the ABC O&Os picked up its NASCAR Angels, Businessweek Weekend and Exploration with Richard Wiese.
CBS Television Distribution reported increased renewals for two gamers and one talker, with Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! hitting 60% of the U.S. through 2011-12 and Rachael Ray re-signed in 23 of the top 25 markets.
At the show
Fox announced that it had appointed Greg Meidel as president of My Network Television, whose initial programming strategy of back-to-back telenovelas proved a bust.
It was the appropriate venue for the announcement. NATPE last year was dominated by the news—released on the first day of the show—that The WB and UPN would merge into one, The CW. That eventually led Fox to create MNT for affiliates orphaned by the merger.
MNT affiliates that have suffered from the network’s abysmal ratings had new hope and were looking forward to new programming. “It’s nice to see they have someone whose day job is running the network,” said one.
Fox affiliates met with their network, focusing on developing new revenue opportunities from repurposing material for digital opportunities.
The Syndicated Network Television Association released new data that it said showed that for the third year in a row, syndicated programming offers more prime ad positions and lower clutter than any other TV media.
Another study unveiled by the Syndicated Network Television Association reported that viewers of syndicated programming have a stronger connection with stars on those shows than network stars.
A hot rumor reported by TelevisionWeek had sources saying that recent View addition and Donald Trump nemesis Rosie O’Donnell would take advantage of a clause in here contract and begin negotiating with Disney for her own syndicated show by spring or summer.
In the meeting rooms
Tuesday’s opening session featured panelists discussing how best to launch, market and sell content on the Internet and elsewhere and compensate its creators.
One NATPE panel didn’t find much consensus on where producers of reality programming should target their shows: network primetime or cable.
On Wednesday, Comcast Entertainment Group President Ted Harbert told NATPE attendees that the broadcast networks need to stop spending millions of dollars creating shows that sometimes don’t last more than a couple of episodes before they get yanked from the schedule.
Panelists on Wednesday offered optimistic outlooks for TV stations that embrace digital platforms and sales opportunities. “By combining TV and the Web together, we are able to target print, direct mail and yellow-page advertisers,” said New York Times Broadcast Group’s Christine Di Stadio.
After the success of NBC’s Thursday comedy lineup, it’s not surprising that NBCU TV West Coast President Marc Graboff told a NATPE audience that his network is not dropping scripted shows from the 8-9 hour as it had indicated it would, instead, it is aiming for “inexpensive scripted programming” much like that on some cable networks.
NATPE nominated co-chairman Emerson Coleman, VP of programming for Hearst-Argyle TV, for a second term in 2007. Roma Khanna, senior VP of content at CHUM Television, was nominated to replace current co-chair Stephen J. Davis, who has completed his term.