Clear for takeoff

Gavelers, gabbers enliven syndie market

NEW ORLEANS — On the eve of the opening of the NATPE floor, syndicators were feverishly pinning down clearances, upgrades and renewals to prove that this year’s market would not be just a newfangled dot-com convention.

Action hours took center stage Monday as Tribune, New Line and Pearson were all able to guarantee their franchises another year of life and add new shows to the roster.

Gavelers, gabbers and gameshows also secured last-minute station clearances and renewals.

Pearson TV, whose “Baywatch” franchise is now running in its 10th season, is assured the series will continue through its 12th after inking a two-year deal with the powerful Chris-Craft TV station group.

Pearson also worked overtime to pick up upgrades for freshman gamer “Family Feud.” Series just received timeslot upgrades in eight markets, including Atlanta, Seattle and Sacramento — and brought its clearance to 90%.

Falling in place

In its role as a producer, Chris-Craft is readying “Housecalls” for a fall launch with Buena Vista as distributor. BVT appears to be on the verge of adding a major station group clearance deal for the reality show.

Tribune’s action trifecta of “Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict,” “Beastmaster” and “Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda” has been confirmed to hit the airwaves next fall.

“Conflict” and “Andromeda” have now inked deals in 78% and 86% of the country, respectively. “Andromeda,” toplining Kevin Sorbo, is set to air in 49 of the top 50 markets, while “Conflict” will return for its fourth season with upgrades in Tampa and St. Louis.

Meanwhile, the fall season’s top firstrun action rookie, “Beastmaster,” has been renewed in 79% of the country, securing double runs in 27 of the top 30 markets.

New Line’s first entry in the action hour business — “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World” — looks to be in solid shape for a second year now that New York station WPIX has upgraded the series. Stations in Orlando, Fla.; Seattle; Roanoke, Va.; and Huntsville, Ala., quickly followed suit.

Rookie combo

The company’s upcoming rookie combo of “First Date” and “Matthew Blackheart: Monster Smasher” just nabbed stations in Chicago and Denver as New Line prepares to clear the rest of the country. “Launching in Chicago and Denver, in addition to our deal with the WB 100+ station group, gives us momentum as we head to the convention floor,” New Line’s David Spiegelman said.

Also returning for a sophomore run is this season’s highest-rated syndie rookie, Twentieth’s “Divorce Court,” which has secured renewals in 90% of the country.

Fellow Twentieth gaveler “Power of Attorney” has also pinned down key carriage deals to post its own 80% clearance rate on the eve of NATPE. San Francisco station KBWB, Miami’s WSVN and Cincinnati’s WXIX are among those that just inked deals for both strips.

“‘Divorce Court’ has been a tremendous success for stations,” said Twentieth’s Paul Franklin. “‘Power of Attorney’ offers some of those same key elements, but takes the courtroom reality series to the next level: giving the common person a chance to have their cases tried by the greatest legal minds in America.”

Arresting

Americans’ obsession with the law has helped Studios USA clear its own legal series, producer Dick Wolf’s “Arrest and Trial,” in more than 65% of the country so far. Five of the top 10 markets have given firm access commitments to the show.

Moreover, stations in 23 of the top 30 markets have agreed to air the series in the critical access, early fringe, late fringe and primetime viewing hours.

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