‘Bet’s’ off for WCBS access slot

In a potentially crippling blow to Carsey-Werner Distribution’s “You Bet Your Life,” WCBS-TV in New York is expected to drop the Bill Cosby-hosted comedy gameshow from its access slot in January.

Although WCBS will wait to officially announce its decision until after the release of November sweeps demos, sources close to the station said yesterday that “Bet’s” fate had already been sealed.

The move, which could hurt the show’s odds of going forward in national syndication, follows a series of programming shifts in the nation’s No. 1 TV market.

Under the changes, which will take effect Jan. 4, Tribune Entertainment’s “Geraldo” will return to the station in the 4-5 p.m. weekday slot from Tribune Broadcasting-owned indie WCIX-TV, while Paramount’s “Hard Copy” will reclaim “Bet’s” 7 p.m. berth on WCBS.

“Geraldo” returns to the early news lead-in position it held from 1989-91 under a multiyear deal that expires at the end of the 1994-95 season. The talker , which appears close to renewals with CBS O&Os KCBS-TV and WCIX-TV in Miami, had performed decently in the early fringe slot its last time out.

“Hard Copy” also had done fairly well in access until WCBS bumped it to 4:30 p.m. this season to make room for the new Cosby show. The station is contractually obligated to air the Par tabloid show in access.

WCBS reportedly will downgrade King World’s “Inside Edition” from 4 p.m. to the wee hours of the morning, unless the distrib can find another station in the market to take the show.

Despite a recent short ratings spurt due to its exclusive interview with Amy Fisher–the “Long Island Lolita” who is awaiting sentencing for shooting the wife of her alleged lover–the station has been unable to make a dent against such powerhouse talkers as WABC’s “The Oprah Winfrey Show” or WNBC-TV’s “Donahue.”

KW could seek to place “Edition” on WPIX, which will lose an hour with “Geraldo” in January and another hour in September 1993. That’s when Trib’s “The Joan Rivers Show” moves into the 9 or 10 a.m. slot on WCBS.

Although this marks the fourth time that “Edition” has failed in New York (during runs on WCBS and WNBC-TV), the show has proved to be one of the few national barter entries that has succeeded without a Gotham clearance.

The same may not hold true for “Bet.” Unlike “Edition,” which boasts a respectable national ratings average, “Bet” has so far underperformed its barter ratings guarantees to national advertisers.

The show is last in its time period on WCBS as well as KCBS-TV, but the latter intends to evaluate the November book demos before making a final decision.

Although C-W Distrib prez Bob Jacobs has been quoted as saying that a few major-market downgrades won’t bring an end to “Bet,” WCBS’ decision raises some questions–particularly whether Cosby would want to continue with a show that has less than premiere clearances in top markets.

WCBS has yet to schedule a post-midnight slot for “Bet,” apparently in anticipation that C-W will discontinue it. Production ended Friday on the second 65-episode installment, with the final batch slated to start in February.

C-W officials and reps for the entertainer did not return phone calls yesterday.

With the beating the gameshow revival has taken, questions have arisen about whether C-W will be able to successfully launch its next syndie project, a revival of the ’50s gameshow “I’ve Got a Secret.”

“This is certainly not a vote of confidence for another old show,” said John Rohr, VP and director of programming for Blair.

There are already doubts about C-W’s intentions concerning “Secret” in the wake of “Bet’s” problems.

“It’s a little late to come out with a show that they think can get clearances on a wide scale. It seems that there is already an abundance of access programming available and an awful lot of new (and returning) talkshows vying for early fringe slots,” Rohr said.

Neither Rohr nor Jack Fentress, VP and director of programming for Petry National Television, is ready to write off “Bet” just yet.

“It’s a little difficult to answer … until the November book comes out,” Fentress said. “If stations choose to downgrade the show, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they will throw it off the air or downgrade it to 3 a.m.”

Because the show has skewed a little older in the major markets, Fentress suggested that early fringe or morning slots may work better.

“A lot will be determined by what the mid-sized markets look like (in the November sweeps),” Rohr said. “The demos will also be important deeper into the market list.”

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