For BVTV, it’s ‘Countdown’ to syndie

Buena Vista Television yesterday confirmed that it is prepping a second weekly entry for the fall syndie market, “Countdown at the Neon Armadillo,” a one-hour country music show derived from a successful Disney-produced ABC spec that aired last month.

The project, a last-minute addition to NATPE, marks the first time that a major studio has put its dollars behind a country music project. Several smaller distribs launched similar projects at last year’s NATPE confab, but were unsuccessful in securing major market clearances.

On Dec. 10, ABC aired “Best of Country ’92: Countdown at the Neon Armadillo,” which derives its name from a club at Walt Disney World in Florida. The program ranked No. 1 in the time period, boosted ABC’s previous four-week household rating by 60% and posted the web’s best adult 18-49 demos this season in the 8- 10 p.m. Thursday slot.

The show, however, was competing against rerun fare on the other networks.

Sources outside Disney estimated the network production of the country show cost about $ 800,000 to $ 900,000, while the economics of syndication will likely necessitate a production budget in the range of $ 150,000-$ 200,000 per week.

Disney insiders noted the cost differential should not come across the screen , since much of the original cost for the spec involved building the stage.

Set to be produced in Nashville, the series will feature up to six different artists performing their singles and speaking about their careers.

Also featured will be world premiere videos, talent competition and the “Countdown Dancers.”

Don Weiner, producer of “Best of Country ’92,” has been signed as exec producer. BVTV will produce 46 episodes, including six weeks of reruns, with production beginning in late August.

The series, produced by Buena Vista Entertainment, will be sold on an all-barter basis, with BVTV retaining seven minutes and another seven minutes going to the stations.

“Countdown” follows in the footsteps of “Solid Gold,” which began as a network spec and made its way into syndication for a lengthy run.

BVTV, which also is introducing the weekly reality magazine “The Crusaders” for fall, is taking advantage of the craze in country music. But sources note that interest in the genre has proved limited, and question whether such a project will have nationwide appeal.

The distrib hopes the demos will prove to be “user-friendly” enough for advertisers to serve as successful counter-programming against reality series.

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