Local Shows Gain Natl. Ground

More locally produced tv shows are going national than at any other time in syndication history.

“This is probably the biggest trend I’ve seen so far at NATPE,” said Henry Siegel, chairman of LBS Communications, who over the years has distributed a number of series that originated on local tv stations.

The three most recently announced local series that were searching for time periods at NATPE last week were:

* “Studio 22,” a weekly entertainment-news magazine that began in 1989 on KCBS Los Angeles, spread last year to the other CBS-owned stations and is now going out nationally through Blair Entertainment.

* “Scratch,” a weekly half-hour magazine show for young adults that has run successfully for the last two years on CBS affil KXTV Sacramento. Muller Media has picked up the distribution rights and is marketing it to stations for fall ’91, revamped a bit for national appeal.

* “Howard Stern,” the weekly hourlong satirical talkshow that has stirred up lots of controversy since its debut on WWOR New York last summer. The station has since placed it on KCOP Los Angeles and WPHL Philadelphia, and All American TV has begun selling it nationally for an April 1, 1991 start.

* “Not Just News,” a weekly half-hour information/entertainment show for children designed by WTTG, the Fox o & o in Washington, to cater to the provisions of the Children’s Television Act of 1990. Fox’ syndication subsidiary, Twentieth TV, is distributing it throughout the country for availability in the fall of 1991.

“Tv stations are developing and producing more shows so they won’t have to be at the mercy of the syndicators,” who ratchet up the license fees on their hit series and demand big bucks for off-network sitcoms, said Mike Weiser, senior v.p. and general sales manager of Blair Entertainment. Local origination, he added, “allows the stations to take more control over programming costs.”

George Back, president of All American TV, said, “We’re an independent syndicator with no studio facilities. So we have to look to the stations as our studios. And a show that already exists on a local station has a seal of good housekeeping that’s a big help in national syndication.

“From their side,” Back continued, “stations are looking to syndicators more and more because additional profit centers have become a necessity” in the current recessionary economic climate.

Bob Muller, president of Muller Media, said “Scratch” has become so profitable for KXTV and its parent company Belo Broadcasting that the show is completely sold out for the 1990-91 season. Because “Scratch” appeals predominantly to the 12-34 audience, a demographic category not reached by most syndicated shows, Muller said it’s funnelling a number of advertisers to the station that it didn’t have access to in the past.

“I think you’ll see a lot more of these local-show pickups by national syndicators because the profits go right to the station’s bottom line,” said LBS’ Siegel.

The way the deals usually work is that the distributor takes over the production cost of the show from the station. The distributor also will buy out the commercial time (at the local rate-card price) that the station has to give up to make the national barter uniform throughout the country.

If they get off the ground in national syndication, Blair is carving out 3 1/2 minutes in each “Studio 22” half-hour; Muller is taking three minutes in “Scratch” and All American is planning to ask for 2 1/2 minutes in each “Howard Stern” hour.

Unlike Blair and Muller, All American also will be asking for cash license fees from each station because Back is not expecting to clear anywhere near 70% of the U.S. Many regions of the country are almost guaranteed to steer clear of “Stern” because of his delight in trying to get away with as much as the WWOR censors will allow. So the barter dollars will be much smaller than those of the less controversial “Scratch” and “Studio 22.”

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