Katz prepping picks

TV station rep firm sorts out syndie season

“Hollywood Squares,” “Judge Mills Lane,” “Donny & Marie” and “Stargate SG-1” are among the “contenders” for syndie hit status next year, according to an overview of syndie programming issued by TV station rep firm Katz Television.

After a few false starts, 1998 could be the year of the gameshow comeback, led by “Hollywood Squares,” Katz officials said in a presentation sent this weekend via satellite to the company’s 190-plus client stations. New York-based Katz Television sells advertising time and advises local TV stations on programming and scheduling matters.

“Because we crave the opportunity that games offer to counterprogram (established shows), we are hopeful that this season will be their comeback season,” said Ruth Lee Leaycraft, VP and director of programming for Katz Continental TV.

In addition to “Squares,” new program offerings cited as contenders by Katz were Rysher Entertainment’s courtshow strip “Judge Mills Lane,” Columbia TriStar TV’s talk-variety hour “Donny & Marie,” and the weekly drama “Stargate SG-1” from MGM.

Katz will give its final list of program picks and pans to station clients Jan. 19, on the eve of the annual National Assn. of TV Program Executives syndie sales confab in New Orleans.

In the presentation, Katz officials also warned stations in smaller markets that the pipeline of syndie fare may be squeezed by the emergence of the WeB, a localized cable distribution system spearheaded by Time Warner’s fledgling WB Network.

The WB’s goal is to beef up its national distribution by setting up a WB-affiliated cable channel on cable systems in smaller markets, below the top 100, where the netlet does not have a broadcast affiliate.

In addition to WB Network programming, the cable WeB channel is expected to carry syndicated pro-gramming beginning in fall 1998. WB-owned programs already set to air on the WeB next fall include off-network runs of “Friends,” “ER” and the talkshow “Rosie O’Donnell.” The WB is projecting its WeB system will eventually cover about 15% of U.S. TV households, meaning that buyers for the WeB have a big edge over local station buyers in negotiating deals with syndie distribs.

“Beware of the WeB,” said Greg Conklin, director of programming for Katz, noting that some of the upcoming off-network sitcoms may bypass the broadcast stations and “go the way of the WeB.”

A WB Network spokesman said Monday the WeB would be a boon to syndicators who often can’t clear their shows in smaller markets with fewer than five TV stations.

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