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CBS Eyemark won’t renew rookie yakker

'Gayle King' shelved after one season

HOLLYWOOD — “The Gayle King Show” is the latest syndie casualty of the season.

CBS’s Eyemark Entertainment has opted to cut its losses and not renew the low-rated rookie talkshow strip for a second year. Production on the Hartford, Conn.-based show will end May 6, with episodes airing through Sept. 4.

King, a TV news vet, will continue to serve as a news anchor for CBS affil WFSB Hartford, as she has throughout the run of her talkshow.

“Gayle King” was marketed by Eyemark as a half-hour companion to “Martha Stewart Living,” which expanded from a weekend half-hour to a weekday strip last fall. Eyemark’s hope was that “Martha Stewart Living” would provide a strong lead-in to help establish “Gayle King,” but Stewart’s program hasn’t been a ratings barn-burner either.

In the past February sweep, “Gayle King” averaged a 2.3 household rating and 8 share in Nielsen’s 38 overnight metered markets. The show lost an average 23% of its lead-in rating and was off 15% from its average year-ago timeslot rating. By comparison, “Martha Stewart Living” averaged a 2.9/10 in the February sweep.

Eyemark will continue to distribute “Martha Stewart Living” next season, although sources say there’s some disgruntlement within CBS about Eyemark’s arrangement with Stewart. Eyemark acts solely as a distributor on “Martha Stewart Living” — even its national advertising sales are handled by Stewart’s company.

Eyemark initially hoped to profit from Stewart’s show by using it as a springboard for the Eyemark-produced “Gayle King.” But with that show’s demise, the distribber now has little choice but to offer stations a second run of “Martha” or risk losing a valuable one-hour timeslot on dozens of TV stations around the country.

Prior to Wednesday’s cancellation announcement, Eyemark had renewed the “Martha”/”Gayle” combo for a second year with stations covering more than 80% of U.S. TV households. Eyemark is prepping a new celeb-oriented talkshow with author Jackie Collins for a summer test on CBS’ Los Angeles O&O, but even in a best-case scenario, it’s unlikely the Collins show would be ready for a national bow by September.

As the 1997-98 season draws to a close, “Gayle King” joins a list of frosh syndie casualties that includes Fox’s short-lived “Home Team with Terry Bradshaw,” All American TV’s equally short-lived “Arthel & Fred Show” and Buena Vista TV’s recently yanked “Keenen Ivory Wayans Show.”

Before landing her own show, King was known to talkshow fans as “Oprah Winfrey’s best friend” who made occasional appearances on Winfrey’s top-rated talker. In fact, Winfrey, King and other notables are on a private cruise this week in the Caribbean as part of a Winfrey-hosted 70th birthday salute to acclaimed writer/poet Maya Angelou.

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