Big-game hunters

King World, Sony stake out new offerings

King World and Sony, partners on the TV-syndication juggernauts “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy,” have reunited to create a pair of fresh half-hour gameshows for syndication in 2007-08.

The two companies declined to reveal any information about the gameshows, including the titles. That reticence is causing some observers to speculate that the two hurried the announcement to send the following message to TV stations: Don’t rush to buy a syndicated half-hour version of hot skein “Deal or No Deal” from NBC Universal Domestic TV until you see what we eventually have in store for you.

A spokesman for NBC U said the distributor has made no decision about producing another edition of “Deal or No Deal” for TV syndication. But it’s rare for the owner of a successful primetime network gameshow not to come up with a revenue-generating syndie spinoff. Buena Vista’s “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” is still going strong in syndication long after ABC cancelled the primetime version hosted by Regis Philbin.

Another reason King World and Sony are gung ho about putting two more gameshows on the air is that the two syndie categories churning out the most firstrun product, talkshows and courtshows, have shown some overall softness in the ratings this season.

By contrast, three of the four current syndicated gameshows — “Wheel,” “Jeopardy” and “Millionaire” — are chalking up healthy ratings, and the fourth, “Family Feud,” will get a new host in September, John O’Hurley, who succeeds Richard Karn.

Bill Carroll, VP of programming for Katz TV, said that King World, which will distribute the gameshows, will seek clearances in daytime or late afternoon, not in the prime-access 7 to 8 p.m. slots, where “Wheel” and “Jeopardy” reign. “King World wouldn’t want to go up against its own shows,” Carroll said.

The exec producer of “Wheel” and “Jeopardy,” Harry Friedman, will take on the same role with the new gameshows. King World and Sony will co-produce the two shows, and Sony will sell the national-advertising time through its New York-based barter-sales operation.

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