‘Shirley’ sets prime syndie slots

The buzzards are beginning to circle the three major new syndicated talkshow strips for 1993-94 — King World’s “The Les Brown Show,” Twentieth TV’s “The Bertice Berry Show” and Columbia Pictures TV’s “Ricki,” hosted by Ricki Lake — even before the programs have gotten on the air.

“We think these shows are vulnerable, and we’re targeting them,” said John Fitzgerald, DLT Entertainment chief executive. His company has sold the Canadian talkshow “Shirley,” hosted by the Toronto TV personality Shirley Solomon, to WPIX, New York, where it started Monday at 1 p.m.; KCAL, Los Angeles, beginning midnight Aug. 16; and KDFI, Dallas, debuting at 7 p.m. Sept. 13.

Bob Peyton, executive VP for DLT, said he’s also contacting NBC affiliates who are unhappy with the rating of the network-daytime talkshow hosted by John Tesh and Leeza Gibbons, “John & Leeza From Hollywood.”

Station sources say KCAL is paying DLT $ 7,500 a week in license fees for “Shirley”; WPIX is ponying up $ 5,000 a week and KDFI is in for $ 1,000.

In addition, the stations are allowing DLT to hold back one minute of advertising time in each hourlong edition to sell nationally.

Fitzgerald said he’s negotiating with an existing barter syndicator to sell the minute for DLT, with the promise that if the show succeeds and begins its national rollout over the next year, the barter company would stay on board. DLT would hold back two commercial minutes an hour starting in fall 1994.

Fitzgerald said DLT has chosen its first station deals deliberately because KCAL, WPIX and KDFI all have talkshow blocks where “Shirley” should easily fit in.

On KCAL, her lead-in will be Warner Bros. TV’s “Nighttalk With Jane Whitney” at 11 p.m. On WPIX, Group W Prods.’ “Vicki!” at noon will lead in to “Shirley.” And on KDFI, the show will be the lead-in for the country’s only talkshow block in primetime. The Dallas station strips shows hosted by Multimedia’s Jerry Springer at 8 p.m., Sally Jessy Raphael (also from Multimedia) at 9 p.m. and Tribune’s Geraldo Rivera at 10 p.m.

Fitzgerald said DLT is “under no pressure financially to clear huge numbers of markets” for “Shirley” by this fall, because Toronto’s CTV Network, in association with Solomon’s Adderley Prods., will continue to produce it for Canadian viewers. DLT is the worldwide distributor of the show.

“Shirley” was originally scheduled to run starting last April 12 at 11 a.m. on ABC, but at the last minute the network cancelled it to continue stripping “The Home Show.” Sources say an unacceptable number of ABC affiliates told the network they would not carry “Shirley” and could buy their own talkshow in syndication.

At a WPIX press luncheon, Solomon said of her show, “We take the high road — we’re not doing the exploitative, sleazy subjects.”

In Canadian TV in the 1980s, Solomon produced documentaries, worked as a news reporter and co-anchored a newscast for Global TV. She started the talkshow at CTV in 1989, with her second husband Les Kottler as executive producer.

John McKay, general manager of KDFI, said: “I like the fact that ‘Shirley’ is softer than some of the other talkshows in the market.”

For one thing, he said, it’ll be easier for the station to get advertisers to buy time in the show.

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