WB sets ‘Court’ dates with NBC

Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has sold its remake of “The People’s Court” with former New York Mayor Ed Koch to the NBC O&Os in all markets except Los Angeles and Providence, R.I.

That makes Warner Bros. the first syndicator to sell a new strip for fall 1997 in any of the top three markets. But it also may be bad news for its frosh talker “In Person With Maureen O’Boyle.”

The NBC-owned stations that cleared 52 weeks of the show for cash plus 3-1/2 minutes of barter include: WNBC New York; WMAQ Chicago; WCAU Philadelphia; WRC Washington; WTVJ Miami; KNSD San Diego; WNCN Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; WCMH Columbus, Ohio; and WVTM Birmingham, Ala.

“People’s Court” also has been sold to two ABC affiliates: KSTP Minneapolis and KATU Portland, pushing total clearances to more than 21% of the nation.

Obstacles in L.A.

Sources say KNBC Los Angeles is holding out on clearing “People’s Court,” in part because it has a stake in “Arthel & Fred,” a new talkshow with All American co-hosted by KNBC sportscaster Fred Roggin. KNBC also is concerned that “People’s Court” may skew too old and that producer Stu Billett, rather than Warner Bros., has ultimate creative control over the show. It’s unclear why Providence did not clear the strip.

Scott Carlin, executive vice president of WBDTD, said “The People’s Court” has been assigned no timeslots yet, and it’s too early to speculate on the future of “Maureen O’Boyle,” which is cleared on all the NBC O&Os except those in San Diego, Birmingham and Providence.

NBC owns a piece of “Maureen,” but station general managers are unhappy with the show, and WNBC does not plan to renew it next year, sources said. John Rohrbeck, president of NBC Owned Television Stations could not be reached for comment.

“No definitive edict one way or another has come down” on “Maureen O’Boyle,” Carlin said. “We wish it were doing better. We will not comment on our thoughts to improve and enhance the show, but we will do whatever we have to do.”

Carlin added that clearances for “The People’s Court” likely will be spread between daytime and afternoon. He would not discuss the amount of cash license fees the stations are paying, but said, “Stations are not buying an unknown, untested, unseen show, and license fees are commensurate beyond a freshman show.”

Aside from Paramount Domestic TV’s “Entertainment Tonight,” “People’s Court” was the second-longest-running franchise in syndication history, airing for 12 years. The new version is an hour, and it includes new interactive segments. It will draw real cases from small-claims court suits filed in the New York metro area, and Koch’s decisions will be binding.

Soft sell

The attachment of Koch made New York an easy sell, and Carlin said the rest of the country is interested too, especially given the poor performance of this season’s new strips. Since the show was unveiled Friday, he said he’s received calls from “well over 30 network affiliates.”

Bill Carroll, VP-director of programming at Katz Television, remarked, “It was going to be the year of the gameshow, and instead we now see court blocks.”

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