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20th TV, CBS near deal for Elliott talker

Twentieth TV, CBS Entertainment Prods. and Four Point Entertainment are reportedly completing a deal to have Twentieth syndicate a new daytime chatshow hosted by Gotham TV personality Gordon Elliott.

The syndicator is said to be eyeing a fall 1994 launch for the program, which would give Twentieth a firstrun presence in all key dayparts if “Bertice Berry” works in early fringe and “Chevy Chase” succeeds in late fringe (both premiere this fall).

Twentieth also syndicates “A Current Affair” in the 7-8 p.m. access hour and “Studs” in latenight.

CBS had originally signed a pact with Elliott for a 13-week talkshow tryout this summer on several stations and retains an option on him.

With the web slated to give back an hour of time to affiliates, CBS evidently chose to take the project into syndication and — after exploring several other offers — selected the sister division of rival Fox Broadcasting.

The Federal Communications Commission continues to bar the networks from directly distributing firstrun shows and steering the programs to their own affiliates, despite recent efforts that watered down the financial interest and syndication rules.

The fin-syn regs also still prohibit the networks from acquiring an interest in someone else’s firstrun syndicated shows, but the webs remain free to sell a portion of their stakes to outside parties.

CBS, for instance, could sell Twentieth a 50% piece of the Elliott show in exchange for distribution rights. Both can take producer credits and pay a production fee to Four Point.

The CBS-Twentieth agreement is somewhat along the lines of the pairing between NBC Prods. and Group W Prods., which teamed up in 1990 for their short-lived syndicated series “House Party.” In that effort, however, NBC served as the lone producer while Group W handled the distribution.

Now that it appears to have gotten past the regulatory barriers, Twentieth — currently a non-player in the talkshow field — will have to create a niche for Elliott in the crowded daytime talker arena.

Elliott is no stranger to the host chair. Before the Aussie began as a regular comical contributor on Fox-owned WNYW’s “Good Morning, New York,” Elliott spent five years as host of “Good Morning, Australia.”

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