This could be a big deal: Domestic TV stations and cable networks already pay about $20B a year for syndicated shows, RBC Capital Markets’ David Bank says in an in-depth look this morning at the business. And digital streamers pay studios $2B for content, about half for TV shows. The amount from digital could grow as much as 30% next year if a new player challenges Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon in the online market. That’s provided much comfort for the companies that dominate syndicated sales of scripted sitcoms and dramas: studios affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC, as well as Warner Bros and Sony. But Bank says that Viacom is about to join the club for the first time since it split from CBS in 2005. TV Land’s original shows including Hot In Cleveland and Happily Divorced “could generate new and profitable revenue streams for Viacom as the shows accumulate enough episodes to move into broadcast syndication,” Bank says. He believes that CBS-owned stations will begin to air Hot In Cleveland
CBS Television Distribution has sold its syndicated first-run Jeff Probst to stations in more than 70% of the country ahead of its fall 2012 launch. The new one-hour talk show starring the Survivor host is now in 22 of the top 25 markets. New sales include to station groups CBS, Dispatch Broadcast Group, Gray Television, Raycom Media, Sinclair Broadcast Group and Hearst Television.
Who said syndication was boring? In one day this week, the usually sleepy industry offered more action that a Michael Bay movie. Wednesday started off with several shows: newbies Jeff Probst, from CBS TV Distribution, Twentieth’s Ricki Lake, Warner Bros’ Bethenny Frankel as well as Warner Bros’ rookie Anderson, vying for a slot on the NBC stations. It ended with Jeff Probst getting the NBC stations, Anderson being renewed on the Fox stations and Ricki Lake landing a key Tribune station that secures its launch. “I don’t remember it being so wild,” one veteran syndication executive said about the Wednesday flurry of activity. “It was like the Wild Wild West — everyone had their guns out and we were shooting at each other.”
After a marathon of presentations by all hopefuls, including the NBC-produced Jenny McCarthy talk-show pilot, it came down to Jeff Probst and Ricki Lake for the spot on the NBC stations. Things were so close, I hear the winner was picked by a vote. The moment the decision to go with Jeff Probst was made yesterday, “the scurrying started, and the other dominoes started to fall,” according to an industry insider. Ricki Lake needed to secure a station in the top TV market, New York City, to keep its hopes of a nationwide launch alive. Meanwhile, Tribune’s New York station WPIX had trouble integrating Anderson Cooper’s new talk show into its lineup of conflict talkers: NBCU’s Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos, and Tribune’s own Bill Cunningham. So WPIX went for Ricki Lake, Anderson moved to Fox’s New York station, and the Fox station group quickly renewed the show for a second season.
CBS TV Distribution’s syndicated daily talk show hosted by Survivor‘s Jeff Probst has finalized a deal with the NBC owned-and-operated stations, clearing the strip for a fall 2012 launch. In addition to the NBC Owned TV Stations in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas-Fort Worth, San Francisco, Miami, San Diego and Hartford, Connecticut, the show, titled Jeff Probst, has been sold to stations owned by CBS, Gannett Broadcasting, Post-Newsweek, Belo, Cox Television, Scripps Howard Broadcasting and LIN Television — the station groups that previously carried CTD’s The Oprah Winfrey Show — for 55% coverage of the U.S., including 16 of the Top 20 markets.
Two months into it freshman run, Anderson Cooper’s daily syndicated talk show has been renewed for a second season. The show’s core station group, Fox TV Stations, has renewed the Telepictures-produced show on its stations in Los Angeles (KTTV-TV), Chicago (WFLD-TV) and Boston (WFXT-TV), and has picked up the series for its stations in New York (WNYW-TV), Minneapolis (KMSP-TV) and Tampa (WTVT-TV). This represents an upgrade for Anderson, which currently airs on Tribune’s WPIX in New York. LIN’s incumbent stations also have renewed the show, which also has been cleared in Las Vegas, San Diego, Phoenix and Jacksonville. “The show is off to a good start and has the opportunity to grow organically into something unique,” said Telepictures president Hilary Estey McLoughlin. While not a breakout hit, Anderson is doing decently in the ratings, averaging a 1.4. The series is distributed by Warner Bros Domestic TV Distribution.
The Fox television stations have renewed The Wendy Williams Show for two more seasons, keeping the syndicated talker from Debmar-Mercury on through 2014. The Wendy Williams Show — which recently scored an interview with Charlie Sheen in a synergy move as Debmar-Mercury is also distributing Sheen’s new sitcom — has been a strong performer on the Fox stations, where it originated with a trial run in 2008. But nationally, the program, which officially launched in 2009, ranks as the lowest-rated talk show in households. (It does better in the young demos.)
Katie Couric’s upcoming nationally syndicated talk show, Katie, has been cleared in over 60% of the country, according to distributor Disney-ABC Domestic Television. Katie, slated to launch in fall 2012, has been sold in 14 of the top 15 markets. Of course, the backbone of that are the eight ABC owned-and-operated stations, which picked up the show as part of Couric’s deal with Disney/ABC. The eight stations (in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Houston, Raleigh/Durham and Fresno) cover 22.5% of the country, including the top five markets. Additional clearances include stations from broadcast groups Allbritton Communications, Belo Corporation, Cox Media Group, Gannett Broadcasting, Hearst Television, LIN Broadcasting, McGraw-Hill, Scripps Howard Broadcasting and Young Broadcasting.
The reports of The Simpsons‘ imminent death were once again greatly exaggerated. It happens during every cast renegotiation — the voice actors and the producing studio 20th Century Fox TV go through a very public standoff, triggering a slew of headlines about the certain end of the beloved animated series, before the two sides ultimately reach an agreement. This seems to be the case again this time as people close to the negotiations are optimistic that there would be new contacts with the the cast that will seal The Simpsons’ renewal by Fox for a 24th and possibly 25th season. The deals are not done and may or may not close today as talks continue, but it looks like the actors would return with a pay cut in the 30% range they offered the studio but sans the lucrative back-end participation they were seeking. One of the cast members, Harry Shearer, even proposed to take a pay cut of more than 70% in exchange for points on the show, but I hear that the option of giving the actors any profit participation was a non-starter for the studio.
EXCLUSIVE: Reveille is entering the first-run syndication arena. The production company owned by News Corp’s Shine Group has tapped syndication executive Eric Pankowski for the newly created position of SVP Creative Affairs. In that role, he will oversee the development of syndicated programming for Reveille, a new area for the company known primarily for scripted and unscripted network shows such as The Office, The Biggest Loser and MasterChef as well as online series. Pankowski most recently served as SVP of Jim Paratore’s company, paraMedia inc., and previously worked at Telepictures. Additionally, Reveille president Eden Gaha, who joined the company in May after a long stint at Mark Burnett Prods, has brought in another veteran MBP executive, Chris Campbell, to serve as Executive in Charge of Post Production. Campbell had served in the same capacity at MBP since 2002. Also joining Reveille’s executive team is Jake Smith as Executive Director, Branded Entertainment, Digital. He was a partner and senior producer at Mindshare Entertainment North America.
When new syndicated talk show Anderson debuted with a so-so 1.1 household rating on Monday, the producers called the rating atypical, claiming it was depressed because the show had to face the U.S. Open men’s tennis final in major markets, including New York. But on Day 2, Anderson Cooper’s talk show didn’t get a bump, drawing the same 1.1 household. It had a small uptick in the women 25-54 demo, from a 0.6 to a 0.7 rating. Meanwhile, the premiere of veteran talker Dr. Phil, which was pushed to Tuesday due to U.S. Open-related pre-emptions on the CBS stations, posted a 4.6 household rating for its exclusive interview with the parents of Casey Anthony. It was Dr. Phil‘s highest-rated season premiere in 7 years, up 92% from last season’s opener. Dr. Phil led the syndicated talk show pack yesterday, including Regis & Kelly (2.7/10), Dr. Oz (2.5/7), Ellen (2.3/6) and Maury (1.6/5).
After acquiring a slew of off-network dramas, Ion is adding a comedy to the mix with a deal for the exclusive broadcast syndication rights to all five seasons of ABC’s George Lopez. The comedy, bought from Warner Bros TV Distribution, will begin airing on Ion on Sept. 29 in three-hour blocks three times a week. While not a runaway hit for ABC, George Lopez has performed very well for its cable home, Nick at Nite.
Twentieth Television will be testing another potential first-run syndication program on the Fox Television Stations. Dish Nation, a half-hour pop culture/celebrity news program in the vein of TMZ, will debut July 25 for a six-week trial run on Fox stations in several markets including New York, Los Angeles, Washington DC, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit and Baltimore. It will feature four drive-time radio teams: Scott Shannon and Todd Pettengill (The Big Show with Scott & Todd on New York’s WPLJ), Rick Smiley (Rick Smiley Morning Show on Atlanta’s WHTA), Blaine Fowler and Allyson Martinek (Blaine & Allyson on Detroit’s WDVD and DJ Felli Fel (Los Angeles’ Power 106). Dish Nation will be filmed daily at each of the team’s studios and highlight the top moments from their radio shows that day. Their banter will be illustrated with animation, images and video footage. The show is envisioned as a companion to the Warner Bros-produced TMZ, which airs on the Fox stations, as well as local news or off-network comedy series. Twentieth has been testing syndication prospects on the Fox stations before making a decision whether to go national, most recently with a Craig Kilborn talk show last summer.
At Looong Last Oprah Leaves Daytime TV
The final episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show yesterday posted a 13.3 household rating in the overnight metered markets. The preliminary number — which does not include the St. Louis market, where Oprah was preempted for storm coverage — was the highest-rated in 17 years, since a February 1994 show titled People Shed Their Disguises. It has been a big final week for Oprah, which more than doubled its recent averages. On Monday, the show drew a 10.2 overnight rating, on Tuesday 10.7, leading to the 13.3 for the finale.
Nancy Grace will be leaving the daytime syndicated show Swift Justice after one season. Las Vegas Judge Jackie Glass will take her place on the show, whose production will be moved from Atlanta, where Grace is based, to Los Angeles. “Leaving such a successful show was a tough decision, but, with the increased requirements of the production’s relocation to Los Angeles, it became challenging to balance my most important job — mother to John David and Lucy back home,” Grace said in a statement. CBS TV Distribution’s Swift Justice launched as the top-rated new first-run syndicated series this season and earned an Emmy nomination for best Legal/Courtroom Program. Glass is best known as the judge who presided over the case that sent O.J. Simpson to jail for his role in an armed robbery at a Las Vegas hotel in 2008.
EXCLUSIVE… UPDATE WITH MORE DETAILS, 3:45 PM: We hear that the idea of Hugh Grant as a replacement for Charlie Sheen in Two And A Half Men was first pitched to CBS boss Les Moonves and CBS entertainment president Nina Tassler about a month ago. After a couple of weeks sorting out the Sheen lawsuit fallout, the two execs blessed the plan and Grant was approached by the producers at Warner Bros. We hear Hugh flew in and had 2 creative meetings. Things were progressing and he had all but a completed deal when he backed out unexpectedly. ‘It was not the money. He didn’t want to do TV because those 24 episodes are a grind and a lot of work. At the end he couldn’t get his head around doing a series.” Another insider tells us that, if Grant committed, “the show could have gotten another 3 to 4 more seasons”.
PREVIOUS FROM NIKKI FINKE: I’ve learned that one-time bad boy Hugh Grant was deep into final negotiations to replace Charlie Sheen as the lead on Two And A Half Men until he pulled out last night at the last minute due to creative differences. Insiders tell me he’d been offered more than $1 million an episode [UPDATE: but Warner Bros sources are now saying it was not that much], which is the sort of $25M-a-year payday Grant doesn’t get from movies anymore. All along insiders at Warner Bros and CBS had been saying that they were going after “an A-lister” as the new star of the top-rated sitcom after Sheen was fired, and Hugh sure fits the bill. (Let me tell you, I would have watched that show!) CBS has been working hard to announce the return of the show and its new star at next week’s upfronts. Maybe Grant will reconsider. Let’s hope. But it’s a decision that will affect not just CBS’ Nielsen ratings and advertising revenue but also billions of dollars of future syndication contracts for Warner Bros Television.
Insiders have been explaining to me that, at first, executive producer and co-creator Chuck Lorre wasn’t sure if he wanted to proceed with the show after Sheen’s implosion. With three successful sitcoms on CBS — Two And A Half Men, Mike & Molly, and The Big Bang Theory — Lorre was enjoying only showrunning two of them. But the problem, and it’s a very nice problem to have, is that there is so much moolah at stake because Two And A Half Men is a multibillion-dollar asset in syndication on terrestrial broadcast stations like the Fox station group, on cable with FX, as well as via multi foreign and DVD deals. The terrestrial contracts called for the stations to have to carry the show as long as Sheen was “of the essence” of each episode. Once Sheen left, the stations could get out of the contract. The hope was and still is that his replacement will be so compelling that the stations will want to continue the contract. Not so with the cable and foreign deals, where Charlie was not “of the essence”, meaning it didn’t matter to the contracts whether Sheen was in the show or not as long as the sitcom’s concept remained similar. This is why everybody have been working so hard to find a replacement, with names like Woody Harrelson, Rob Lowe, John Stamos and Jeremy Piven circulating in the blogosphere. But until now, with Deadline’s news about Hugh Grant, there’s been nothing concrete about actual negotiations going on with any specific actor to replace Sheen.
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