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Big names lead syndies to upfront

Shows featuring Couric, Harvey, others vie for ad-buyers

With “Oprah” gone and soap operas fading, the field has opened up for syndicated talkers, and this fall, five figure to command much of ad-buyers attention — Disney-ABC’s “Katie Couric,” NBCUniversal’s “Steve Harvey” and “Trisha Goddard,” Twentieth’s “Ricki Lake” and CBS Television Distribution’s “Jeff Probst.”

“Syndicated television already is dominant in the daytime daypart given that the number of network hours have diminished,” says Michael Teicher, executive vice president of media sales at Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. “Syndication now has ownership of most of the (daytime) ratings points.”

David Joyce, an analyst with Miller Tabak & Co., estimates the syndication upfront will be up 7.5% this year, to nearly $2.9 billion, from $2.7 billion last year. He estimates CPM (cost per thousand) for syndicated shows will increase 5% to 6%, with more inventory sold upfront this year due to economic uncertainty. Last year, syndicators sold nearly 70% of their inventory in the upfront marketplace.

“Katie” comes to the marketplace with the strongest station lineup among the rookies, comprised predominantly of ABC-owned stations and affiliates. “We are cleared in well over 95% of the country, and 95% of our lineup is on the No. 1 or 2 news station in the market,” says Howard Levy, Disney-ABC’s executive vice president of ad sales.

NBCU’s “Steve Harvey” also has a good shot at success. Harvey’s book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” was a New York Times bestseller, and the movie version debuted at No. 1 at the box office. He’s credited with boosting “Family Feud’s” ratings since he took over that show two years ago, and he boasts a national platform with his syndicated morning radio show.

Bo Argentino, senior vice president of advertising and media sales for NBC-Universal Domestic TV Distribution, ticks off the show’s marketing points, and adds: “He can and will promote this show wherever he goes.”

Argentino also will be selling “Maury”-spinoff “Trisha Goddard” and off-GSN dating show, “Baggage,” hosted by another NBCU daytime star, Jerry Springer.

Twentieth, meanwhile, is placing its bet on the new iteration of Ricki Lake, who returns to syndication after starring in a Sony-produced talker from 1993-2004.

Joe Oulvey, Twentieth Television’s executive vice president of ad sales, says the new Ricki — a freshly remarried mother of two — will be different than the Ricki of the ’90s, who frequently took on tabloid topics.

And while Jeff Probst is unproven as a daytime talkshow host, he has solid name-recognition as the host of “Survivor.”

While the new shows may hog the spotlight, the veterans — led by “Dr. Phil,” “Dr. Oz,” “Live! With Kelly” and “Ellen” — figure to be able to retain advertisers’ trust with year-to-year ratings gains in key demographics.

“Daytime remains a vibrant daypart for advertisers,” says CTD president John Nogawski.

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