NEW YORK — The brutally competitive firstrun-TV syndication business claimed two of the highest-profile victims in years when DreamWorks Television disclosed Tuesday that a proposed magazine series hosted by Maury Povich and Connie Chung will not go into production.
Ken Solomon, DreamWorks’ syndie chief, acknowledged that despite more than 10 months of pitching TV stations owned by the Big Three networks, DreamWorks wasn’t able to close a deal for “Maury & Connie” in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. DreamWorks’ plan was to premiere the half-hour news magazine in fall 1998, either at 7 or 7:30 p.m. or in time periods adjacent to early-evening and latenight newscasts, depending on the individual station
The most immediate consequence of the demise of “Maury & Connie” is that Povich will not walk away from his syndicated hourlong talkshow for Paramount, which was scheduled to expire in September 1998.
“I want to keep doing the talkshow because general managers of stations that carry the show all over the country have begged me to continue with it,” Povich said.
Paramount declined to comment on talks to renew “The Maury Povich Show.” But other sources said Paramount may be forced to increase Povich’s yearly paycheck from $2.5 million to as much as $6 million to get him to sign up for another three years, beginning with the 1998-99 season.
Povich is in the driver’s seat, sources said, because Universal has also made a lucrative offer to get the show away from Paramount. A Universal spokesman refused to comment, but one insider said Universal would love to get its hands on a veteran talkshow that averages a solid 3.9 rating season-to-date, runs on 170 TV stations that reach 95% of U.S. homes and fills Paramount’s coffers with annual profits of about $20 million.
Povich said, “For the last six months, I’ve tried to convince DreamWorks that I could do both shows” in fall 1998. But DreamWorks disagreed. One source said DreamWorks wanted Povich available to work full time on the magazine show so, for example, he could go on location at a moment’s notice to be on the scene of a breaking story.
Another negative for DreamWorks, this source said, is that a station that carries the existing Povich talkshow might not have had room for the “Maury & Connie” half-hour. A different station in the market taking “Maury & Connie” would’ve “made it difficult to create a brand identity for Povich in that city.”
Universal salespeople are telling TV station general managers that U has a good shot at getting “The Maury Povich Show” because Paramount is already loaded with talkshows. Paramount produces the hourlong “Leeza” for NBC’s network-daytime schedule; Par owns the syndicated “Montel Williams Show” and has just signed a $5 million-a-year deal with Howie Mandel to host a new syndicated talkshow beginning in fall 1998.
Both Paramount and Universal are convinced that with Povich and DreamWorks parting company, there’ll be no more selective downgrading of the Povich talkshow as TV stations realize that the program will continue beyond the 1997-98 season. Paramount is still smarting over WNBC New York’s decision to shift the Povich talkshow out of its cushy 3 p.m. slot in favor of Warner Bros. Domestic’s new version of “The People’s Court,” beginning in fall 1997.
A decision on who will distribute the Povich talkshow should come in the next few days. All Povich will say is: “I’m a free agent who’s in the happy position of getting offers from a number of interested parties.”