Network offers shorter, cheaper version

NBC Universal salespeople are telling potential TV-station buyers that the syndicated version of the hit gameshow “Deal or No Deal” will differ from its NBC primetime parent in two big ways: It’s a half-hour, not an hour, and it’ll give away a top prize of $250,000, not $1 million.

Howie Mandel will reprise his host chores on the syndie edition, but NBC U will cut back on the number of sexy suitcase models from 26 to a figure still to be determined. A spokesman for NBC U declined to comment on the syndicated version of “Deal.”

The industry expects NBC Universal to sell “Deal” to at least six NBC-owned stations (New York, L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas and Miami) as a potential companion to “Crosswords,” the Merv Griffin-produced gameshow that premieres on the six NBC O&Os in the fall. Four of the NBC stations are stripping “Crosswords” in high-visibility afternoon time periods as counterprogramming to such syndie powerhouses as “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Judge Judy” and “Dr. Phil.”

If “Crosswords” is not able to make a Nielsen dent in its rookie year, the NBC stations will have to come up with another half-hour to pair with “Deal,” which may not be easy.

“Crosswords” doesn’t need a companion in 2007-08 because Griffin Prods. plans to churn out 225 half-hour episodes in the first season at the Tribune studios in Los Angeles; other gameshow producers typically turn out 195 or fewer episodes per season.

Because of the volume of episodes, NBC will run two half-hours of “Crosswords” back to back each weekday.

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