Viacom takes ‘Guts’ for firstrun syndie rollout

Viacom Enterprises will show off its “Guts” at this week’s NATPE confab.

“Guts,” a weekly children’s sports show that premiered on the Viacom-owned kiddie cabler Nickelodeon in September, will make its way into weekly firstrun syndication this fall with half-hour episodes.

The firstrun broadcast edition will be produced separately and contain different athletic competitions from the Nickelodeon version, which has posted a healthy 7.1 rating in cable homes this season and will continue for a second year on the web.

The last-minute NATPE addition comes at a critical juncture for Viacom Enterprises. It is the first syndie project introduced by the company’s TV wing since it underwent a major revamping last year.

With a new regime at the helm, the distribution company was looking for a high-profile project to bring to NATPE.

Mike O’Malley will host both versions of “Guts,” which has three players competing in a variety of re-tooled sporting events from football and soccer to track and water sports.

The competition is rounded out with play-by-play commentary, instant replays, post-event interviews with winners and “close-up-and-personal” profiles.

Viacom is clearing “Guts,” which is produced by Chauncey Street Prods. in association with Nickelodeon, on a barter basis. The distrib will retain 2 1/2 minutes of time for national advertising.

Even with the new project, the Viacom syndie division is not expected to hit its stride until it can land an exec to fill the vacant syndication president post.

Rick Jacobson, VP and general sales manager, West, for Buena Vista Television , is considered the leading candidate for the job. But the sales exec, who was passed over for the No. 2 spot at the Disney syndication subsid, is rumored to be having difficulty freeing himself from his existing contract.

With this latest endeavor, recently appointed Viacom Entertainment Group chairman-CEO Neil Braun says the company is attempting to create a “brand identity” in a cluttered world that is moving “exponentially toward more (TV) channels.”

Viacom, which honed the “slow rollout” approach with “The Montel Williams Show,” is looking to take the opposite tack when it comes to its cable webs.

“Instead of going local to national, we’re going national to local,” Braun says.

Despite Viacom’s efforts to exploit its top cable draws and use the webs as a testing ground, Braun emphasizes, “There will still be instances in which we would skip the cable networks altogether and go directly into syndication.”

As late as last week, Viacom was in discussions with potential major station group partners for a syndie project that Braun declined to identify.

In addition to “Guts,” Viacom comes into NATPE with”The Montel Williams Show” renewed in more than 50% of the country, including nine of the top 10 markets.

With off-net sales of “Roseanne” virtually wrapped up, Viacom also will concentrate at NATPE on securing additional second-cycle clearances for “The Cosby Show” and “A Different World.” Viacom’s also eying more deals for “This Morning’s Business,” a package of MTV spex and its classic programming library.

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