NATPE 2017

Scripps Pitching Kellie Pickler Talk Show

The station group is drumming up interest for hour-long strip Ben & Kellie, which would feature country artist Pickler and Ben Aaron, a feature reporter on NBC O&O WNBC New York.

E.W. Scripps is developing a daytime talk show with country music star and reality-TV personality Kellie Pickler — the latest in a growing list of shows being developed, produced and sold by station groups.

Scripps executives are at NATPE this week in Miami Beach drumming up interest for the show, which will be called Ben & Kellie. The show features Pickler, 30, paired with Ben Aaron, 35, a feature reporter on NBC-owned WNBC New York.

In a hotel suite at NATPE, Scripps execs — along with Pickler, Aaron and the show’s executive producer, Lisa Erspamer — are taking meetings with representatives of other station groups, and showing a four-minute sizzle reel.

The one-hour strip will debut in either fall 2017, fall 2018 or possibly some time in between, said Brian Lawlor, SVP, broadcast, for the Scripps station group. In an interview in the Scripps hotel suite, Lawlor declined to name any other station groups that have expressed interest in the show. Nor would he say if Scripps has lined up a distributor, other than itself.

On one point he was very clear, however: National clearances will not be necessary for Ben & Kellie to be profitable for Scripps.

“The way we look at it is we have a business model here that we think we can launch with half the country and be profitable,” Lawlor said. “Most importantly, you just have to create a great show. If there’s a great show that’s doing well in markets, it’s going to have no problem being picked up in other markets. With Scripps’ footprint — [stations in] Detroit, Cleveland, Phoenix, Denver, Tampa — you get into a lot of those big cities and we get an audience [then] all of our competitors are going to be calling.


“We build these shows so they’re profitable for us from the beginning,” he said, referring to Ben & Kellie and other Scripps-produced shows such as The List and Right This Minute. “With broadcasters funding and building shows for themselves, you don’t have to have 80% of the country to launch, you don’t have to be in the top five markets and, most importantly, we can be patient, and when we control the show, we can make changes and evolve things and test new things. This is a day of different business models.”

The Pickler talk show has been in the works since at least early 2016, said Cater Lee, VP of programming for Scripps. Pickler first gained fame as a popular contestant on American Idol in 2006. She finished sixth but obtained a recording contract. She won Dancing with the Stars in 2013, and stars in her own reality show — I Love Kellie Pickler, co-starring her husband, Kyle Jacobs — on Viacom-owned CMT (Country Music Television).

Ben & Kellie was developed originally by country music star Faith Hill, who will continue as an executive producer.

Asked how Ben & Kellie would attract national advertising without national clearances, Lawlor explained how Scripps overcame that challenge when it first launched The List six years ago.

“There’s a business model like we have on The List where in the first season, we had a cash license fee but we gave them all the inventory. There was no barter,” he said. “And then you build your scale and once you get to scale, then you go and get the national advertising.”

To read all of TVNewsCheck’s NATPE 2017 coverage, click here.

Comments (5)

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Jaclyn Hansen says:

January 17, 2017 at 3:48 pm

Except for Reeg and Kelly and Kathie Lee, when has this team up stuff ever worked? Ever? Maybe they ought to have teamed her with an older man (as in the Reeg example). I know, all across the country, GMs are saying, Get me the NEXT Ben Aaron!

Lidia McCall says:

January 17, 2017 at 4:14 pm

SAY IT AIN’T SO…together they may have an IQ of 110!

Gabby Fredrick says:

January 17, 2017 at 6:53 pm

If its was a primetime Network show–4 weeks max

Kristina Veltri says:

January 17, 2017 at 10:14 pm

Hopefully this does better than “Crazy Talk”, the first time we saw Aaron in syndication; he did well, having to introduce garbage talk show clips was definitely way above his pay grade and if not for his wife’s DWTS run, it wouldn’t have been mercy-killed in a way more bad syndicated shows need to be.

Kurt says:

August 18, 2018 at 6:43 pm

This is really helpful, thanks.

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