In a move that signals the almost certain demise of the NBC sudser “Sunset Beach,” the Peacock O&Os have inked a deal with Disney’s Buena Vista TV for a syndie daytime strip hosted by British TV personality Ainsley Harriott.
While the Peacock web has until the end of the month to make an official decision to pull the plug on the low-rated “Sunset,” network insiders confirm the show’s current option will not be extended, thus freeing up an extra hour in daytime for all NBC affils starting in January. The 13 NBC-owned stations will fill that hour with “The Ainsley Harriott Show,” produced by Merv Griffin Entertainment.
The Harriott talker will combine celeb chat with how-to cooking segments and remote segs revolving around the cuisine scene as well as local color, human interest and comedic stunt-type segs.
The Jamaica-born Harriott is known in the U.K. for hosting a series of irreverent radio and TV cooking shows for the BBC, including “Can’t Cook, Won’t Cook,” “Meals in Minutes” and “Ainsley’s Barbecue Bible.”
The show will be produced in Gotham, with Griffin serving as exec producer and “Live With Regis & Kathie Lee” exec producer Michael Gelman on board as a consultant.
“Ainsley is an effervescent personality — wild and wonderful,” said Griffin, who signed Harriott to a development deal after seeing him in action in England. “We think American audiences are just going to scream when they see him. He’ll bring some pep and energy back to daytime.”
The deal with the NBC O&Os gives “Harriott” clearances on strong stations covering about 28% of U.S. TV households, including six of the top 10 markets. Buena Vista TV sales execs are hitting the sales trail Monday to line up additional station affils. Buena Vista had some takers when the project was originally shopped to syndie buyers last year, but the distrib eventually opted to delay the launch.
As for the Spelling-produced “Sunset,” the sudser has struggled almost since its January 1998 premiere, remaining at or near the bottom of Nielsen’s ranking of network daytime programs. The show built some momentum during the summer of 1998, particularly among teens, but quickly lost viewership again in the fall.
The demise of “Sunset” is just the latest in a series of changes the Peacock has been making to its daytime sked.
Earlier this year, NBC dumped the long-running serial “Another World” to make room for “Passions,” a particularly over-the-top sudser that the Peacock owns. And last week, the network bowed “Later Today,” an hourlong talker that replaced “Leeza,” which in turn moved to syndication.
An NBC spokeswoman declined comment.