Faced with widespread rumors questioning Phil Donahue’s continued commitment to his long-running syndicated talkshow, Multimedia Entertainment Tuesday announced that several stations have renewed the program for the 1995-96 season.
The unusual announcement was seen by some in the industry as a defensive move intended to offset station concerns about declining ratings for “Donahue” and the host’s rumblings concerning a transition to politics — a rumor thatintensified recently when Donahue signed a one-year contract extension through 1995-96, his shortest yet.
Multimedia noted in a statement that the Capital Cities/ABC-owned TV stations in Houston (KTRK) and San Francisco (KGO) have joined WCVB in Boston, WCCO in Minneapolis, KMBC in Kansas City, WOKR in Rochester, N.Y., and WEEK in Peoria, Ill., in “showing a continued commitment” to the program.
“Donahue,” which begins its 26th season this fall, is currently carried in more than 212 markets and eight foreign nations.
Multimedia has become a talkshow factory. Among its other offerings are “Sally Jessy Raphael,” which is now the second highest-rated talker (the company renewed the hostess’s contract last week with a five-year deal valued at $ 25 million) and “Jerry Springer,” one of the lower-rated talkers that Multimedia is reportedly grooming to one day take Donahue’s place.
While Multimedia has generally steered clear of announcements concerning early renewals for “Donahue,” King World has made a practice of trumpeting long-term station commitments for its top-rated “Oprah Winfrey Show.”