Confab offers only four new daytime shows

The surest sign of the misery local TV stations are enduring amid the economic meltdown is the slim roster of daytime strips that will be hawked this week at the syndie biz’s annual NATPE confab in Las Vegas.

There are a grand total of four Monday-Friday series in the offing — maybe five, if the indie distrib backing a Marie Osmond-hosted talker can wrangle enough station clearances.

The 2009 advertising forecasts for TV stations are so grim that even the biggest syndie players are wary of investing big in firstrun launches. Advertising prognosticators, including the Television Bureau of Advertising trade org, predict that spending in the local broadcast TV sector will fall between 7% and 11% this year from the $25 billion in 2008.

None of this season’s new strips — including “The Doctors,” “The Bonnie Hunt Show” and “Deal or No Deal” — have generated much heat so far. And then there’s that buzz-killing bankruptcy filing by Tribune Co., whose 23 stations are among the industry’s largest purchasers of firstrun and off-network syndie fare.

Attendance at the conference, which opens today at the Mandalay Bay Resort and runs through Thursday, is sure to be down significantly from last year’s crowd of about 7,500.

“Dr. Oz,” a health and wellness-oriented lifestyle show hosted by “The Oprah Winfrey Show’s” resident medical expert, Mehmet Oz, is already cleared on stations covering 94% of U.S. television households.

Winfrey’s Harpo Prods. has partnered with Sony Pictures TV to produce and distrib “Dr. Oz.”

Oz has already become a cottage industry as the co-author of several self-help bestsellers and host of health-oriented programs on Discovery Channel. But there’s still some question about whether Oz can carry a five-a-week daytime show.

“Dr. Oz” has been picked up by Fox O&Os in New York, L.A. and Chicago.

A number of Fox O&Os have also picked up “The Wendy Williams Show,” an entertainment and celeb gossip-driven yakker hosted by the popular Gotham DJ. Fox’s Twentieth TV has just started the process of pitching its daytime version of quizzer “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” to stations, with Jeff Foxworthy aboard to host. Because the distrib’s plans were only finalized this month, Twentieth’s sales reps may well be busy cutting deals during the confab.

L.A.-based indie Program Partners made some noise at last year’s NATPE by announcing plans for a yakker hosted by Osmond for fall 2009. It’s unclear how well the show has done in racking up sales, but a rep for Program Partners says the company will have clearance news soon.

Another indie, Litton Syndications, appears to be capitalizing on the dearth of new product by slowly but surely snaring clearances for gaveler “Street Court.” The project moved a step closer to the starting line in landing deals last week with Tribune’s WPIX New York and indie WCIU Chicago.

Among this season’s frosh crop, “The Doctors” has been confirmed by distrib CBS Television Distribution for a 2009-10 season renewal. The show signed two-year pacts with stations at the outset, as did Warner Bros.’ “Bonnie Hunt.”NBC U’s “Deal” inked one-season deals with stations, but it, too, is expected to return given the lack of replacement options for stations. “Doctors” and “Deal” have hovered around a 1.8-1.9 average household rating so far this season, while “Bonnie Hunt” had been held to just under a 1.0.

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