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Geraldo makes news

Trades talker for berth in NBC primetime

NEW YORK — Geraldo Rivera is trading in his syndie talkshow for a bigger role in the Peacock’s news division, after inking a deal with NBC News president Andy Lack late Monday.

NBC also announced Tuesday that Lack will add oversight of CNBC’s primetime lineup to his portfolio, which already includes NBC News, MSNBC, parts of overseas cable and online efforts.

Sources say Rivera’s new three-year contract will pay him an estimated $3 million annually, and includes:

  • continuation of the CNBC nightly program “Rivera Live”;

  • an additional CNBC primetime program to be developed with Rivera;

  • four primetime programs to be produced by NBC News featuring Rivera and focusing on legal and criminal justice issues;

  • continuation of Rivera’s legal commentary on “Today.”

NBC exercised its right to negotiate the deal after Rivera already had accepted an offer to be an anchor on the Fox News Channel.

Sources said NBC was reluctant to allow any “star power” to go the way of Fox News, despite concerns about Rivera’s talkshow-host image.

The syndie talkshow was “at the heart of the matter,” according to a source close to the negotiations. “Geraldo had a wonderful run with the show, but NBC couldn’t embrace, journalistically, a guy doing a talkshow.” Lack and Rivera came to an understanding after meeting in Los Angeles over the weekend.

The demise of Rivera’s syndie talkshow, scheduled to run through August, marks the end of an era in daytime TV. Rivera’s talker, produced by Tribune Entertainment, hit big when it bowed in 1987, a time when talkshow stars such as Oprah Winfrey, Sally Jessy Raphael and Phil Donahue were solidifying their holds on weekday afternoons.

But Rivera’s ratings have been in a slump the past few seasons and some of its station affiliates in key major markets, including several CBS O&Os, were not planning to renew the show for 1998-99. Tribune brass had hoped to keep the daytime show going next season by revamping the format and switching to Tribune-owned outlets in key markets. (Daily Variety, Nov. 13).

“We have enjoyed a long and productive association with Geraldo Rivera for over a decade,” Tribune Entertainment prexy Dick Askin said in a statement Tuesday. “We wish him all the success in the world for this next step in his career.”

Industry observers speculated that NBC News honchos may have leaned on Rivera to close out the show to help polish a public image tainted by the sensationalistic bent of some daytime talkshows.

Rivera contributed to the raucous image of “trash talkers” with such infamous escapades as the 1988 episode in which his nose was broken after a fight broke out among panelists that included a black activist and a group of white supremacists.

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