New plans for Povich, Chung strip

In light of tight access shelf space in 1998, DreamWorks appears to be revising plans for its half-hour syndicated access strip hosted by Connie Chung and Maury Povich.

While DreamWorks is still hoping for a prime access berth for its first-ever syndicated series, execs at the fledgling studio said they are now willing to initially launch the strip in the lower-profile and less lucrative early fringe peri-ods. DreamWorks is also lobbying the Fox Broadcasting Network to consider airing the show in latenight slots, leading out of 10 p.m. local news.

“If people have short-term constraints (in access) or have need for a news lead-in, and there’s an opportunity to up-grade, we’ll consider it,” said Ken Solomon, co-head of DreamWorks Television, who added that a Fox home also “is definitely an option.”

“Fox has not yet launched a national news franchise in broadcasting,” Solomon said. “They also need to create a sustainable latenight franchise, which has been their Achilles’ heel since day one. I don’t think Fox wants to go head-to-head (with the network newscasts) at 6:30, and nobody’s programming national news out of their late local newscasts. Povich and Chung makes sense. It’s a way to kill two birds.”

Sources within the Fox station group said DreamWorks has pitched the Povich-Chung show for several different dayparts and may even be willing to allow Fox to sell the barter time if it takes the show. Fox does not appear to be showing great enthusiasm, though.

Whether or not Fox is a real option, what’s clear about the talk from DreamWorks is that no station group or syn-die distributor has rushed to grab the show. DreamWorks had earlier said it would have a distributor by the time NATPE rolled around, but now Solomon said DreamWorks will try to sign major-market deals in the next 60-90 days. DreamWorks also is trying to hire an executive producer for the show.

“As long as no on else is making strides, it doesn’t bother us,” Solomon said of the lack of progress on selling the strip, which was introduced eight months ago, an unprecedented 2-1/2 years in advance of air date.

No negotiating power

Some industry observers said the problem for DreamWorks may be both a lack of shelf space and negotiating power. The ABC O&Os have access locked up until 2002. NBC owns part of its two access shows, “Access Hollywood” and “Extra,” and has committed to run them next year. That means they won’t likely buy a different access show for 1998 because it would spell an early death for their current shows.

DreamWorks believes the CBS O&Os are the best fit for the strip if it airs in access, but CBS, aware of this, has all the negotiating power and no incentive to buy it anytime soon.

In fact, CBS’ Eyemark is developing its own potential access contender, “PM Magazine,” and Paramount is trying hard to hold onto its two access slots by positioning “Real TV” as the potential successor to “Hard Copy.”

What all this ultimately means for the Chung-Povich show is unclear. DreamWorks still has two A-list names, but so far, no place to go.Although DreamWorks is now willing to launch its first strip somewhere other than in ac-cess, the price of the talent may mean that it ultimately needs to air in access in order to turn a profit.

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