NATPE 2015

Is Reality Syndication’s Next Big Thing?

Studios, stations and distributors are wondering whether network TV’s and cable’s successes with reality TV the past decade may be worth tapping into for broadcast syndication. Panelists see some possible success scenarios, but seem to think reality TV’s influence on daytime TV will be limited.

The hurdles to producing a hit in daytime television are so enormous, both financially (with shows costing up to $40 million their first year) and creatively (with only one new personality to emerge as a draw for viewers the past few years – Steve Harvey on Debmar-Mercury’s Family Feud and NBCU’s Steve Harvey Show), that studios, stations and distributors are wondering whether network TV’s and cable’s successes with reality TV the past decade may be worth tapping into for broadcast syndication.

This already is happening to some degree, notably with Harvey bringing elements of dating shows to his NBCU daytime talk show, according to panelists on today’s NATPE session “Reality Shows in Syndication: The Next Big Arena … Or Not?”

“Steve Harvey brings to daytime a sense of humor, a point of view and a focus on dating and relationships, which brings a new way to do daytime talk,” said Valerie Schaer, EVP of creative affairs at NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution. (The other panelists were Stephen Brown, EVP of programming and development at Fox TV Stations, Lonnie Burstein, EVP of programming at Debmar-Mercury, and Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of creative affairs at CBS Television Distribution. Atlas Media Corp. president and executive producer Bruce David Klein moderated.)

Reality’s influence also is likely to soon trickle into daytime TV with the melding of news and comedy, much like Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

“From Rosie to Ellen to Steve Harvey, funny will always work — people want to laugh,” said McLoughlin, who speculated that an upcoming daytime format may be funny news programs.

Funny news will have a few things working in its favor. One is that it can lead into or out of stations’ lucrative daytime news. And the news hybrids are cheap to produce, compared to big-name, big-budget shows like Sony’s Queen Latifah and Disney-ABC’s Katie, both of which were canceled after two seasons.


“I don’t see us continuing to do the same things we’ve been doing,” said Brown. “Of all the big names the past three years, only Steve Harvey has been a success.”

Funny news programs also tap into one of broadcast syndication’s hottest trends: funny, whether it’s funny game shows like Family Feud, talk shows like Warner Bros.’ Ellen or newsmagazines such as Warner Bros.’ TMZ or Twentieth Television’s Dish Nation.

Meantime, reality TV’s influence on daytime TV will be limited. Reality shows on broadcast and cable networks, for one thing, often air just a handful of shows with serialized storylines each season. Neither of those work in daytime syndication where studios produce some 180 or more episodes of shows each season.

“In order to do that, you have to have a format that is very easy to produce with many episodes, with a structure or arc throughout [all those episodes], versus building one episode [on cable] for a few weeks,” Schaer said. “Not everything that is successful on cable TV can work in daytime.”

The demographics of daytime viewers are also quite different from viewers watching realty shows in primetime.

“It’s a lower socio-economic pool; it’s an older pool,” said Burstein. “Primetime cable strives for an adult 18-34 or adult 18-49 audience, which our stations don’t care much about. That might establish a nice base for the future, but you can’t survive on that.”

Moreover, daytime viewers, who not too long ago tuned into five-day-a-week serialized storylines on network TV daytime soap operas, no longer watch TV that way. Younger viewers are tuning out TV all together in favor of streaming services, games on their phones and social media.

And even older daytime TV viewers often watch just two or three episodes of daytime shows each week.

“It’s very difficult to bring a new, successful talk show to daytime,” Schaer said. “The digital component [of a daytime show] becomes more important to reach those viewers.”

Comments (41)

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Kristine Melser says:

January 20, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Steve Harvey’s dating segments are more like game shows, not reality shows. It’d be better to bring back The Dating Games then go full fledge reality. Unless distributors can secure the same time period in all 210 markets, it will not work.

Sacha Purciful says:

January 26, 2015 at 12:14 am

ABC has been trying since they cancelled AMC and OLTL to find something to fill their daytime line-up.
First there was The Revolution, FAILED. Next was GAA, FAILED, then some 20 million + dollars later Katie Couric
FAILED! The View is floundering. The only thing they have going for them at this point is General Hospital!
I believe until they admit their mistake and bring back those two shows, (30 minute episodes or a combo of the 2) that they will continue to hemorrhage viewers.

    Daniel Murphree says:

    January 26, 2015 at 9:39 am

    I totally Agree. ABC made a horrible mistake by taking AMC and OLTL off. They truly need to do whatever it takes to bring them back.

    Danielle Hester says:

    January 27, 2015 at 4:43 am

    Also agree. ABC needs to give the viewers back what they have always wanted, AMC & OLTL. No other program can,or will ever compare/replace these programs. Obviously ABC does not give the viewer’s what they want.

    Ray Hopkins says:

    January 27, 2015 at 8:51 am

    ABC made a huge mistake when taking All My Children and One Life To Live off air/tv. Once they make this wrong right and return these two beloved drama’s ABC will again return to it’s number one network. 3 million viewers say so!

Lawrence R Kaplan says:

January 26, 2015 at 2:06 am

I really don’t think this is true. People are over talking heads, PERIOD. C.N.N. is in trouble, nobody wants to watch somebody sit and talk, but they will watch soaps, cool soaps… like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and yes, old school soaps, like G.H., Days, and Y&R. Combine up old school soaps with the new style of serialized drama, put it on multiple platforms, and you will see daytime take off.

Lawrence R Kaplan says:

January 26, 2015 at 2:09 am

For the record, ABC is in trouble because they angered a lot of people over CX long time soaps for basically nothing.

judy shoemaker says:

January 26, 2015 at 7:38 am

This article raises some thought inducing points, however, I disagree with most of what is laid out here. Soap Operas have anchored the daytime lineup for decades, and the recent uptick in ratings proves that soaps are still valuable and networks need them. With that being said, look at how miserable ABC Daytime is. Right now The Chew is just skating by, The View is skating on thin ice, General Hospital is really all ABCD has running well. In addition, in my local market, ABC follows up GH with Harvey, and Dr. Phil. I for one don’t watch either because Daytime TV is over saturated with talk shows already! The only talk shows I have ever watched were Oprah and Tyra banks…if I watch talk, it has to feature somebody who wants to make a difference…Tyra Banks used to do a lot of social experiments and those episodes were always must catch TV! One could argue that doctors and shrinks on TV are making a difference, but come on, they have to dig deep to find the most outrageous people and/or news to talk about to generate interest…and in the case of Dr. Oz, he trumps a previous claim with a new claim later on, “This is my #1 way to lose belly fat.” And he’ll say that again later in a different episode. Furthermore, I 100% disagree with “funny news” being the future of daytime. As talk has oversaturated daytime tv, news can be found anywhere. CNN, HLN, MSNBC, Fox News, AlJazeera and online. I highly doubt making news funny will deliver an audience. And in terms of reality tv…if Kris Jenner and Bethenny (reality stars) couldn’t keep their talk shows afloat, then I don’t think any daytime reality could make the cut as well. The bottom line is that daytime tv needs an excellent blend of shows. Right now, daytime tv needs for drama, especially ABC Daytime, bringing back “All My Children” and “One Life to Live” would fix most of their daytime problems and they could rival CBS again. Having syndicated talk dominate your schedule does not build any brand/network loyalty as these shows often jump stations in affiliate markets. ABC needs to admit their mistake and bring these two soaps back to the airwaves before CBS daytime completely dwarfs ABC.

    ramona casanova says:

    January 28, 2015 at 5:47 pm

    Well said !

Elaine Coorens says:

January 26, 2015 at 8:29 am

For almost four years, angry soap fans haven’t watched anything related to ABCD and banned them, since they canceled our soaps. Here we were in 2015, wondering and hoping if our soaps would return back on air. It’s amazing how there’s still 4 soaps left on air, still going strong in the ratings department.

Leigh Adams says:

January 26, 2015 at 11:06 am

I don’t watch daytime tv anymore because i am sick to death of talk shows and reality tv. I change the channel as soon as one comes on. Funny news is not a good idea either because they turn out cheesy. It’s not too late for ABC to realize that they made a big mistake canceling AMC and OLTL. Soaps are what loyal daytime viewers want, even if it means that i have to DVR them and watch them on the weekend. Many prominent actors and actresses started on soaps. I never heard of any starting on talk shows! Soaps even give us the exposure to different life situations so that when it happens to us we have a

Leigh Adams says:

January 26, 2015 at 11:08 am

an idea of how to handle the situation. But most of all soaps give us Love in the Afternoon!

Ashley Bethard says:

January 26, 2015 at 12:59 pm

These words, “daytime viewers, who not too long ago tuned into five-day-a-week serialized story lines on network TV daytime soap operas, no longer watch TV that way.” … are so out-of-touch! The programs that loyal, decades long viewers watched (and, still want to watch) were taken away from us without good cause! “All My Children” and “One Life To Live” were yanked off the ABC network much to the protest and dismay of millions of fans of both those shows. We watched ABC Daytime religiously and when “LIFE” got in the way of our viewing ability, we resorted to video-taping/TIVO’ing our programs to watch when we found a free moment … NEVER did the viewers abandon “AMC”/”OLTL” … we just found a way to fit it into our daily lives. While our soaps were taping, we worked outside our homes and raised children (taking them to various sports programs, etc) … all the while, knowing that when “LIFE” wound down, we would get our time to see our beloved characters (Jack/Erica, Bo/Nora, etc.). It was ABC that failed the fans!

    Ashley Bethard says:

    January 26, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    I would also like to add that since ABC yanked “AMC”/”OLTL” back in 2011, I (and, millions more) have not watched ANY PROGRAMMING (daytime or primetime) on ABC since and I will never again watch ABC unless they return “AMC” & “OLTL” to their daytime programming!

    Ashley Bethard says:

    January 26, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    One last thought … while I do not watch ABC programming, I make one exception … “General Hospital”! That is the only program I watch on ABC!

Andrew Berliner says:

January 26, 2015 at 3:22 pm

There is to much talk and game shows on TV, I would rather see Love in the afternoon from the soaps. After Y&R and B&B are over my tv is off until time fro the evening news. ABC has tried talk and cooking shows since they removed AMC and OLTL and they do not fair well. I do not watch ABC in the afternoon except for General hospital is recorded and I watch it after the evening news

Elmer Baldwin says:

January 26, 2015 at 4:21 pm

I was devastated when ABC cancelled AMC & OLTL. They were my constant companions since the early 1970’s. I even had my 26 year old daughter following along in our viewership. She was also crushed at the cancellation. I found I needed those stories in the afternoon. I have since resumed watching general hospital and Y&R, but more than anything to have AMC & OLTL come back would be the icing on the cake. Talk shows, don’t need them! If I want to watch food shows I seek them out on the food network but even that is getting passé. Nothing beats a daily new entertaining episode of love in the afternoon. Please bring back the soap genre the viewers are here and ready to watch.

Lisa Stabiner says:

January 26, 2015 at 4:57 pm

Talk shows & Reality shows are NOT what people want to see. When ABC took All My Children and One Life To Live off the air they made an epic mistake! Daytime soap fans are extremely loyal viewers and we don’t forgive or forget! I watch nothing on a ABC other than General Hospital, I DVR the NBC & CBS soaps and I happily watched the online reboots of AMC and OLTL, even tho online is not my favorite way to watch. Bring back AMC and OLTL in any incarnation during the day and they’ll have an audience ready & waiting for them. Talk shows? Not so much

Stephen Jackson says:

January 26, 2015 at 5:00 pm

I have been watching daytime TV since the 50’s. The soaps were only 15 to 30min. long and sponsored by the soap companies. They changed and were interesting as they grew. Drama is better than reality, it gives people time to dream and have fun. Reality is harsh and sad, we need more fun . Bring back our daytime dramas , not talk and reality shows.

Ashlan Palmer says:

January 26, 2015 at 5:21 pm

I miss all my daytime soap stories. I do not like talk shows at all. I am still using a vcr to record GH. I miss OLTL & AMC. I very rarely ever watch ABC except for GH. I would watch more of this channel if they hadn’t killed my soaps. That was the only thing I actually looked forward to everyday. I think they did a great disservice to they loyal soap fan and I know for a fact that young people were watching the shows. In my neighborhood and amongst my friends, The young-uns would have plenty to say about the story line. Bring them back please. Thank you. GOD BLESS

Jacklyn Schmeiser says:

January 26, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Look at The Revolution. It wasn’t as successful as the then-representatives of ABC thought it would be, so they’ve given that show the ax, because all we former ABC Daytime fans want is soaps, and they’re a centerpieces of our lives.:)

Steven VanHusen says:

January 26, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Reality is not what the public wants. The ratings ABC is getting proves that. If ABC is smart it will return All My Children and One Life to Live to the airwaves. Then they’ll get the ratings they are seeking.

Rob Holtzer says:

January 26, 2015 at 6:10 pm

What the TV stations don’t need are anymore reality, talk shows I was a soap fan for almost 50 yrs and was really upset when they cancelled All My Children and One Life to Live. I do not watch any talk shows or reality? shows during the day and Probably only watch 2 hours of daytime TV any more. The talk shows have to give away prizes to even get a studio audience, I would watch more daytime TV if the soaps were back on.

Megan Page says:

January 26, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Bring One Life To Live back please at least weekly. ABC Daytime TV lineup is bad and I am tired of the Young & the Restless along with Bold & Beautiful

Aaron Conner says:

January 26, 2015 at 6:31 pm

I miss All My Children and One Life to Live. I watch General Hospital and my local news on ABC. The only talk shows I watch are Live with Kelly and Michael, and Ellen. I don’t like The View, The Chew, reality shows or Maury – type shows. I like to watch soaps on daytime TV. They are a nice break from the real world!

John Tucker says:

January 26, 2015 at 7:15 pm

Why not broadcast our beloved soaps? I watched every single episode of Ryan’s Hope on Soapnet. You could go back to the beginning of OLTL and AMC. We would love it.

Andrew Rote says:

January 26, 2015 at 7:33 pm

I am sick of reality TV and game shows!!! I would rather watch NOTHING than watch those. I would LOVE to see ABC air the soaps I’ve watched for over 40 years. Soap watchers related to the story lines of their beloved characters of OTLT and AMC. Viewers would tune in just to see what would happen next. I watched everyday and when I couldn’t, I would DVR (VHS in the old days) and watch when I could. Gone are the days when you could enjoy watching TV!!! 🙁

loriesa carrillo says:

January 26, 2015 at 7:52 pm

I agree with the comments regarding daytime soaps. As for myself, I have completely lost interest in ABC daytime (with the exception of General Hospital) since AMC and OLTL were canceled. Reviving the two soaps would add a bigger variety of choices to a lineup over-saturated with talk/reality shows. Bringing them back as thirty-minute episodes can help reduce costs, while international syndication can bring in additional revenue.

Roger Daniels says:

January 26, 2015 at 8:36 pm

The reason talk shows fail, is because viewers still watch daytime soaps. We are sick of reality tv. We have had several talk shows canceled on abc. We want our soaps. No more crappy talk shows or reality tv.

Patty Hersh says:

January 26, 2015 at 9:33 pm

Daytime viewer don’t want a talk show, a self-help cooking show, or a silly reality show. They want there soaps back. It’s that simple.

Thomas Maiuri says:

January 26, 2015 at 9:53 pm

You can’t just put a person in a talk show and win us over. I miss my ABC Soaps. I watched live, DVR, Soapnet and online. These stories are part of our lives and I know I will watch any way possible. I need to know what is going on in Pine Valley!

Lynne s says:

January 26, 2015 at 10:05 pm

I disagree with this I am enjoying my soap operas and certain talk shows its how I unwind during the afternoon

David Kuehn says:

January 27, 2015 at 12:47 am

We need to bring back the soaps like all my children and one life to live. Those had a good fan following. These talk shows aren’t what we want to watch.

ramona casanova says:

January 27, 2015 at 1:09 am

Steve Harvey is an exception, for the most part, daytime viewers do not want more game shows, and certainly no more reality shows lie the failed Katie, The Revolution, extended GAA. We are sick of shows full of talking heads ! What we crave is more daytime drama, starting with the return of prematurely cancelled Soaps on ABC.. Much of what is on tv can be found online as well and a great many daytime viewers can and do watch that way As a result the interest in daytime dramas has actually swelled, crossing divides of age, gender, socio-economic status. The networks apparently havent caught on.

[email protected] Crosbie says:

January 27, 2015 at 11:04 am

We’re tired of game shows, food shows, decorating shows and talk shows. Bring back the daytime dramas we loved for decades. Think about it — what shows have lasted as long as All My Children or One Life to Live? And have such devoted fans even years after Brian Frons trashed them? Bring back some Love in the Afternoon!

Mary Ann Milbourn says:

January 27, 2015 at 1:29 pm

I respectfully disagree. I don’t see the kind of casual viewing of reality television making an impact online. Online viewing is driven by very individual tastes, not just a dial flip to see what’s on. Serial narratives are what make people tune in, whether it’s on television or online: we want to see what happens next.

Stacey Sedbrook says:

January 27, 2015 at 8:48 pm

I truly hope ABC brings back AMC and OLTL. I’ve watched both soaps since the early seventies and was broken hearted when they were cancelled. Please ABC, bring them back.

Trent Poindexter says:

January 28, 2015 at 12:23 am

I am not watching ABC Daytime shows, because i don’t want a talk show. I want All My Children. Please bring back that show!

Veon Mynatt says:

January 28, 2015 at 8:35 am

I watch GH 5 days a week. Since OLTL was cancelled, I do not watch any other daytime program.
While I recognize it is expensive, without considering options, it was easy to cancel. Well what was the amount of loss of money from Katie Couric and the other show who’s name escapes me and was quickly cancelled. Did TPTB ever consider 3 days a week for the soaps. I miss the soaps!

john scales says:

January 28, 2015 at 9:38 am

I’m still boycotting ABCDisneyTV,& adopting the slogan.. No Mouse In My House daytime and primetime EXCEPT FOR General Hospital! ABC TV MADE a grave,huge,terrible gigantic mistake cancelling All My Children & One Life To Live…and is still in last place when it comes to viewers! People do not want to sit in front of the tv and watch news programs all day!and it seems like talk shows are becoming the thing of the past with Queen Latifah being cancelled,, damn which one is next?the view is flopping and floundering like half dead catfish look what happened to The Replacements shows the repulsion known as the revolution failed and canceled and Katie Keurig failed and cancelled!ABC TV better wake up and stop putting on these failing and dull as shows and bring us back love in the afternoon AMC and OLTL is what the viewers want. They need to settle the score with Prospect Park admit their huge mistake so they can put the shows back in production and get out of last place viewership wiseand all of us fans will return, other than that the boycott continues!they can deny it all they want they are not fooling us enough already! give us fans what we want ABC you need us you need love in the afternoon All My Children and One Life to Live.they are talking about bringing good afternoon america back after It failed and it will fail again like those other failed shows. Getitright ABC Disney TV your channel is a huge jeopardy right now the life of the channel is in grave danger! Give us back our cancelled shows and watch us come back And the ratings go up up up! Trust us over 3,000,000 SOAP fans you won’t regret it!

john scales says:

January 28, 2015 at 9:46 am

I also want to state that I cannot stand reality TV shows! They are not real at all and I do not care about those people at all! excuse me for saying this please… I don’t give a shit about people who think they are better that other people. Reality TV does not teach you a damn thing! Those Soaps did! So don’t bother us with that trash!!