Couric, Harvey, Lake pass clearance milestones

The 2012-13 daytime syndication season has begun to firm up, thanks to major clearances for talkers featuring such faces as Katie Couric, Steve Harvey and Ricki Lake.

With the annual NATPE confab coming in January, the developments are a positive sign for the syndie business after a couple of fallow years and indicate an ambitious competition for daylight market share in the post-“Oprah Winfrey Show” era.

In addition to the newcomers, Anderson Cooper’s “Anderson” has already been renewed for a second season, while Debmar-Mercury greenlit a second Stateside season of “The Jeremy Kyle Show” in 2012-13.

“I think that they’re still looking for the next Oprah — I just don’t think they’ll ever find one,” said Horizon Media senior research veep Brad Adgate, “These shows are all going to do somewhere between 2 to 3 million viewers, probably with a very old median age, by that I mean above 50, and we’ll see which one wins out. It really comes down to who’s got the best time periods, and it seems a lot of stations took Oprah’s time period and put local news on it.”

Calling the current landscape a buyer’s market, one insider expressed fears that all the new shows could lead to a bit of a “bloodbath” for syndie producers. With each additional prospect comes diminishing distribution opportunities, and merely the difference between 90% and 80% clearance can be significant in terms of revenue to support each show — especially as viewers take their time to adopt new favorites in an increasingly fragmented environment.

Perhaps the most-anticipated new series will be the one from former “Today” and “CBS Evening News” host Couric. “Katie,” which former NBC honcho Jeff Zucker will exec produce and Disney-ABC Domestic TV is distributing, has gotten clearance in more than 80% of the country for its September bow and will air in at least 55 of the top 60 markets, including recent clearances in Minneapolis, Cleveland and St. Louis.

Adgate said that Couric’s name recognition will be “a big factor for the first day or the first week” in terms of getting people to sample the show, but the nature and quality of the show will determine its long-term success. He notes that her debut will come during the height of the next presidential campaign, forcing her to choose between a news or lifestyle focus.

The Ricki Lake Show,” from Monet Lande Prods. with distribution by Twentieth TV, will enter the 2012-13 fray having crossed the halfway point in U.S. clearances with sales in cities including L.A., Boston, New York, Chicago and Dallas. Twentieth TV exec veep and general sales manager Paul Franklin said the influx of new talkshows “says the stations are hungry for something new and fresh.”

“I don’t think anybody can replace Oprah Winfrey, but I do think there is a tremendous amount of upheaval in daytime because of her departure,” Franklin said. “You’ve got Regis (Philbin) leaving the airwaves, you’ve got soap operas going away one by one. Daytime is a bit up for grabs.

NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution has sold Endemol-produced hourlong “Steve Harvey” in more than 70% of the U.S., including 40 of the top 50 markets. Harvey and Rushion McDonald are exec producing the series, which has clearances with station groups including NBC, Fox, CBS, Hearst and Gannett.

“Jeff Probst,” featuring the longtime “Survivor” host, passed the halfway point in national markets last week, coming from CBS Television Distribution.

Hourlong “Jeremy Kyle,” produced with ITV Studios America, currently airs in more than 50% of U.S. markets. Program launched in the U.K. originally; in the U.S., the yakker airs on Fox and Sinclair stations, including Fox affiliates in New York, L.A., Chicago, Dallas, Washington and Houston.

Debmar-Mercury co-prexies Mort Marcus and Ira Bernstein said today that they saw the show as “a long-term franchise.” The series has been running in Britain for six years.

Another Debmar-Mercury offering, “The Wendy Williams Show,” received a two-season renewal from Fox TV stations in October.

Even as programming for 2012-13 is setting into place, options for 2013-14 are developing. For example, Queen Latifah has signed with Sony Pictures TV to front a daytime talker that would have Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and James Lassiter of Overbrook Entertainment among its exec producers.

(Sam Thielman contributed to this report.)

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