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Roseanne lands NBC O&O deals

Roseanne has landed big bucks and some of TV’s prime real estate for her new talkshow venture with King World Prods.

NBC-owned stations in the top five markets have picked up the hourlong strip for a fall 1998 start, King World confirmed Friday. Both sides declined comment on financial terms of the sale, but sources say spirited bidding drove the weekly cash license fee up to the $80,000 to $90,000 range in New York and Los Angeles.

‘Biggest launch’

“This is the biggest launch I’ve ever been involved with,” King World chairman Roger King said.

“We had to fight to get ‘Wheel of Fortune’ on the air. We had trouble launching ‘Jeopardy!’ But (stations) are lining up for Roseanne,” King said.

ABC O&Os are understood to have passed on the project, but sources said King World fielded offers from the CBS and UPN O&Os, in addition to Young Broadcasting’s indie KCAL Los Angeles.

The pact with the NBC O&Os came as an unexpected coup for King World. Widespread industry speculation had the show going to the struggling CBS O&Os in New York and Los Angeles, both of which are in dire need of a strong early fringe show to drive viewers into late afternoon/evening newscasts. At present, the NBC O&Os generally rank first or second in those key timeslots.

Locking up deals

In addition to WNBC New York and KNBC Los Angeles, the Roseanne show has been picked up by WMAQ Chicago, WCAU Philadelphia and WRC Washington, D.C. With the momentum provided by strong clearances in the largest, most competitive markets, King World is virtually assured of locking up station deals for the show in the remaining 100 or so markets that are crucial to the success of any syndie strip.

What’s more, the NBC O&Os’ investment in Roseanne raises questions about the long-term stability of two other syndicated strips set to bow on the NBC stations this fall.

Warner Bros.’ revival of “The People’s Court” was picked up for early fringe by all NBC O&Os except Los Angeles, which opted to fill its only open timeslot with All American Television’s talker “Arthel & Fred.” The NBC network’s four-hour daytime block, comprising soap operas and the Paramount-produced talker “Leeza,” limits the number of syndicated shows NBC affiliates can carry in daytime and early fringe.

A one-two punch

Sources said WNBC and KNBC have committed to air Roseanne between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. “People’s Court” is expected to move into the 3 p.m. slot on WNBC this September, while KNBC is said to be thinking about a one-two punch against its rivals by slotting Roseanne as the 2 p.m. lead-in to “Rosie O’Donnell” at 3 p.m.

In announcing the NBC deal, King World officials reiterated that they would not allow stations to run Roseanne in direct competition with its longtime talk leader “Oprah Winfrey.” Still, King World’s aggressive sales blitz for Roseanne makes it clear that the onetime ABC sitcom queen is King World’s hedge against the possibility that Winfrey will end her hugely successful run when her current contract expires at the end of the 1997-98 season.

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