“The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show” has run its course. Disney’s Buena Vista Television confirmed Tuesday that it has canceled the latenight syndie talk-variety strip that bowed last August.
“These are hard decisions, but it comes down to a simple point: You put the costs (of production) against the ratings and realize it’s time to move on,” said Mort Marcus, president of Buena Vista TV. “The ratings haven’t grown, and the costs are expensive for a program like this.”
Buena Vista’s decision to pull the plug on the show came as a surprise to its host, Wayans told Daily Variety Tuesday. In the bigger picture, however, Wayans said he had few regrets and had gained a lot from the experience of producing and fronting a five-day-a-week talkshow.
“It feels like we did what we set out to do with this show, and I learned a lot,” said Wayans, who was said to have pocketed nearly $7 million last year for signing the deal with Buena Vista. “When you’re on the outside looking in, these (talk) shows don’t appear to be the monsters that they are. I’ve gained much greater respect for the guys that have been doing it for 10, 15 years.”
“Wayans” got off to a strong start last summer, but never held on to its early momentum; in the just-concluded February sweep, the show averaged a 2.1 household rating and 6 share in Nielsen’s 38 overnight metered markets. Buena Vista was said to be spending north of $750,000 per week to produce the hourlong show.
From the outset, “Wayans” faced intense competition for audience share from the established latenight yakkers like NBC’s Jay Leno and CBS’ David Letterman. But “Wayans” also had to contend with a fellow syndie upstart, Columbia TriStar TV’s “Vibe,” that went after the same young, urban audience as “Wayans.”
Further complicating the picture for Buena Vista and “Wayans” was the presence of yet a third syndie talkshow, “The Magic Hour,” now waiting in the wings for a June 8 debut on many of the same stations that carried “Wayans.” Moreover, the Earvin (Magic) Johnson-hosted “Magic Hour” is a high-priority project for Fox’s Twentieth TV, and Fox’s 22-station O&O group had been preparing to move “Wayans” to later timeslots this summer to make way for “The Magic Hour.”
“Wayans’ ” exit could prove a major boon to “Vibe” and “The Magic Hour,” simply by lessening some of the competition for viewers, advertising dollars, top-name guests and even promotional time on local TV stations. “Vibe,” which has been renewed for a second year, has had its own rocky road with a succession of executive producers and comedian Sinbad coming in after two months to replace original host Chris Spencer.