Game block returns with Woolery, Eubanks

NEW YORK — Columbia TriStar TV Distribution has renewed “The Dating Game” and “The Newlywed Game” as an hourlong daytime block for the 1997-98 season, and will replace the existing hosts with gameshow veterans Chuck Woolery and Bob Eubanks.

The announcement of the second-year renewal came as something of a surprise to the industry for at least two reasons:

“Dating” and “Newlywed” have performed poorly in the syndicated Nielsens, both falling below a 2 rating to date this season.

The Fox-owned TV stations have not yet signed up for the shows in the Big Three markets of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. If one or more of these three fail to pick up the shows, CTTD will have a hard time finding a replacement station at this late date, according to station sources.

But sources say CTTD will use the well-known hosts as one of the key selling points to stations that haven’t yet renewed the shows.

CTTD will acknowledge that the departing hosts — Brad Sherwood of “Dating” and Gary Kroeger of “Newlywed” — came on board to create a faster-paced, more youth-oriented version of the old shows.

That strategy may have failed because most TV stations played the two shows in morning and early-afternoon time periods, when most young people were not in front of their TV sets.

Woolery (who’ll take over “Dating”) and Eubanks (who’ll return as “Newlywed” host) — each of them at salaries at least triple that of their predecessors, sources say — have signed on to help rejuvenate “the classic elements” of the shows, according to a statement by Steve Mosko, senior VP of syndication for CTTD.

But syndication observers say CTTD’s renewal of “Dating” and “Newlywed” is due in no small part to the fact that there’s not a lot of enthusiasm among TV stations for the new crop of firstrun syndicated shows coming into the daytime marketplace in September.

Or, as one general manager for a big-city station that has agreed to take “Dating” and “Newlywed” for another year puts it: “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t know.”

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