Partner Stations Network, founded four months ago by Lambert Television and five broadcasting groups comprised mostly of network affiliates (Daily Variety, Sept. 1), has stepped up its plans to create primetime action-adventure hours that will preempt web fare.
Despite the increased emphasis on primetime, however, Partner Stations is proceeding with its original mission of creating strip programming for non-primetime dayparts.
Michael Lambert, the generalpartner of the group whose members own 26 stations covering about 20% of the country, announced Thursday that Partner Stations has formed an in-house development and production unit headed by TV industry vet Jake Tauber.
The former development/programming exec with Fox’s syndication and station wings and veepee of daytime development for NBC will work with Donna Harris, an independent producer who formerly served as VP of original programming for Lifetime TV, in overseeing the division’s activities.
Others named to the unit include Karen Glass, previously the West Coast exec-in-charge of programming for Comedy Central, and Adam Tyler, who produced CBS’ “Best Defense: A Survival Guide for the Nineties.”
The new four-person unit, which Lambert says is larger than firstrun development staffs at some major studios, will develop half-hour reality strips around talent.
The first project will be tested in April, with others headed for the air either during or immediately after the May sweeps. Ultimately, Partner Stations hopes to roll out the strips in national syndication.
Partner Stations will try out different strips on the stations, 11 of which are in metered markets. The non-metered markets will likely get test projects during ratings sweeps periods.
Primetime hours were not a priority when Lambert first formed Partner Stations, but venture partners Lin Broadcasting, Malrite Communications, Pappas Telecasting, Providence Journal Broadcasting (which includes King Broadcasting) and River City Broadcasting have since asked Partner Stations “to explore primetime dramas and action hours,” he said.
The accelerated rollout schedule for primetime hours stems from the stations’ desire “to have more control over what they put on their air,” Lambert said.
Project search begins
Partner Stations has just begun looking at possible projects and will have to seek out foreign financing partners to help cover the estimated $ 1.2 million-$ 1.3 million per-episode costs of the hours, according to Lambert.
Because action shows are so expensive to produce, Partner Stations will forgo the station tests for the hours and simply offer them in national syndication.
Unlike the proposed Warner Bros. and Paramount fifth networks, which are targeting independents for their proposed weblet fare, Partner Stations’ ad-hoc network approach will encompass network and Fox affils as well as indies.
In fact, only two of the 26 stations involved in Partner Stations are indies, with the remainder belonging to CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox.