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Strip series face tough market

New strip series are facing one of the tightest marketplaces in years, according to a number of signs that surfaced at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives (NATPE) convention:

  • On the eve of the convention, Group W withdrew “Teen Court” from syndication, as did Multimedia with “Weekdays With Dana Fleming and Robb Weller.”

  • The two most highly touted strips for the fall, King World’s “Les Brown Show” and Twentieth TV’s “The Bertice Berry Show,” are basically aiming for daytime time periods, where cash license fees from stations are so small that the distributors have had to carve out an extra minute of national-advertising time to try to put at least a slight dent in their deficits.

  • With the Nielsen failure, and subsequent cancellation, of Carsey-Werner’s “You Bet Your Life” and TPE’s “Star Search” this year, despite the wide clearances they chalked up at last year’s NATPE–many of them in high-visibility timeslots–stations have become so gun-shy about new series that they’re renewing such marginal strips as Multimedia’s “The Jerry Springer Show,” Tribune Entertainment’s “The Joan Rivers Show” and Warner Bros. TV’s “The Jane Whitney Show.”

Some optimism

If there was any optimism coming out of the convention among the distributors of new strip series, it was that even though most of them will be in non-lucrative time periods, they’ll be going up against the marginally rated returning shows. The new ones will thus have at least a chance of surviving beyond the first year.

But, said Dave Sifford, executive VP of marketing and sales for Tribune Entertainment, which is not producing any new strips for next fall, “these shows are still going to be inheriting time periods that aren’t working.”

Time period important

“If a syndicator has a strip that needs a good time period, he might as well forget about it,” said Steve Leblang, VP of marketing and sales strategy for Turner Program Services. The one exception to that blanket statement is King World’s magazine series “American Journal,” which some stations will schedule in a one-hour block with King World’s longrunning “Inside Edition” magazine.

Henry Siegel, president and CEO of All American TV, said, “King World has the leverage to line up all sorts of time periods” because it has the distribution rights to “Wheel of Fortune,””Jeopardy!” and “Oprah,” the three highest-rated continuing strips in firstrun syndication.

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