'Caroline' inks 8 pickups at tepid NATPE

LAS VEGAS — The corridors of the NATPE confab resonated with the belly-aching of TV distributors, frustrated by the no-show of a number of TV station execs who traditionally come to buy their shows.

But the station honchos who did show up actually resisted the gaming tables long enough to sign contracts for a few of the high-profile shows on offer.

The two most talked-about deals at the convention were with the ABC O&O station group.

Both Warner Bros. and Buena Vista are clamoring for “Rosie’s” slots on that station group, which airs the talker on most of its outlets. Warner’s “Rosie O’Donnell Show” goes off the air at the end of this season.

Warner announced Tuesday that its Telepictures-produced “The Caroline Rhea Show” was picked up by eight ABC stations, and syndie topper Dick Robertson said he will pitch hard to get the show into “Rosie’s” time periods.

In fact, he’s positioning the show as a continuation of the “Rosie” format with a new host. According to sources, as part of the deal, ABC owns half of “Caroline.”

However, “Rosie’s” slots on ABC stations are already spoken for.

Buena Vista and the ABC stations jointly developed BVT’s Wayne Brady talk-variety project, announced earlier this month, specifically for those periods.

“Caroline” apparently is slotted mainly for latenight, and ABC stations bought it as a backup in case the Brady show, which has yet to be piloted, fails.

Warner will be hunting for a Los Angeles clearance, as its ABC deal does not include KABC Los Angeles. KABC, which does not air “Rosie,” has a full sked already. The outlet has Brady slotted for latenight.

The deal for the Brady show reps the first time BVT has had the opportunity to develop a program for fellow Mouse House division ABC stations since the companies were aligned in the mid-1990s.

The ABC stations, which air such stalwart syndie properties as “Oprah,” “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy!” and “Live With Regis & Kelly,” have had no need for anything new in years.

Renewal biz

The other biz being written at NATPE Tuesday was mostly for renewals of existing shows, or for new shows that were largely cleared going into the show.

These include “Dr. Phil,” “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” “Pyramid,” “The John Walsh Show,” “Beyond With James Van Praagh” and “Rob Nelson” — all are set for fall starts.

However, Warner did say it is racking up deals for new mag “Celebrity Justice,” and is hopeful it will bring back “Moral Court.”

KCAL G.M. Don Corsini, one of the biggest buyers of syndie fare in Los Angeles, was literally blown over by one renewal deal — for Studios USA’s “Crossing Over With John Edward.”

Providing a rare moment of drama Tuesday afternoon, the outdoor tent Studios USA set up near the Venetian Hotel swimming pool was practically swept away by high winds. Corsini himself ran to hold up the structure.

Among other renewal deals: Columbia TriStar earned a renewal on the Fox O&Os for the third season of court strip “Judge Hatchett,” and the Tribune-Fireworks-Marvel show “Mutant X” was renewed.

Paramount is one distribber that used the convention to build momentum for a new strip, “Life Moments.”

NBC-owned stations picked up the daytime strip last week. New top 30 market stations that bought “Moments” at NATPE include KIRO Seattle, KSTP Minneapolis, WKYC Cleveland and WFTV Orlando.

Twentieth Television, which had “Rob Nelson” cleared in more than 60% of the markets going into the convention, was using much of its time meeting with advertisers and ad agencies about collaborating on programs in development, Twentieth prexy-chief operating officer Bob Cook said.

Lions Gate TV distribution prexy Ira Bernstein said he was spending literally none of his time with domestic TV stations. Two-thirds of his meetings, which got under way Sunday, were with international buyers; the other third was with domestic cablers.

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