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Developments Sluggish Despite Bounty Of Ideas

Countless concepts are floating around in the firstrun business, but only a dozen pilots for strips have been shopped around to stations so far.

“It’s the slowest development season I can remember,” says Judy Girard, program director of NBC’s New York flagship O&O. “Many syndicators are sitting on the fence, waiting for the October books, afraid to move forward on projects which might have no reason to be.”

“There are fewer shows at this time of year than ever before. Blame the recession, the high cost of launching projects and the lack of available time slots,” says Janeen Bjork, VP/programming, Seltel rep firm.

Adds John Von Soosten, VP/programming, Katz rep firm: “So far we’ve seen a lot of sales presentations but very little material on tape. Syndicators have taken longer this year, trying to second-guess the economy and talking to station group heads about what they want.”

Soosten’s company is preparing its annual tape for clients (which goes out via satellite mid-December). “There’s less so far for us to get our teeth into and comment on than in past seasons.”

It is thought that a couple of major syndicators may even sit the season out. Rather than launch something new, they’ll focus on upgrades and renewals for established shows or fine-tune premieres. For example, so far neither Warner Bros., Paramount nor Fox has announced a new strip for ’92, though all three have a number in development.

“There’s a good chance we will bring a strip to market: We prefer a quick strike last-minute announcement to letting something out of the bag now,” says Frank Kelly, newly named prexy for creative affairs and first-run programming at Paramount Domestic Television.

Says Kelly, “On the other hand we’ve got several established hits and a new show whose time slots and performances we’re constantly trying to improve.” (Paramount did not bring a new strip to market two years ago when most everyone else tried to launch a game show.)

Over at Warner Bros. Domestic Television, senior veep Scott Carlin says that the company has not decided which, if any, of its projects in development will be brought to market.

Warners recently reconfirmed its 52-week commitment to its new Jenny Jones talk show, but has pulled the plug on its other new strip, “Love Stories.” (The company routinely brings three or four projects to NATPE and then sticks with the one or two that shows the most momentum.)

Fox’s syndie arm, Twentieth Television, is playing it foxy too. It’s refusing to deny or confirm that it has ’92 plans for a companion piece for “Studs” – or even that it’s bringing a new strip to market at all.

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