Smith’s Overbrook makes syndie ‘News’

Studios USA lines up pilot deal for 2003 newsmag

Will Smith is looking for some “Good News” in syndication.

Smith and producing partner James Lassiter, through their banner Overbrook Entertainment, are making their first foray into the syndie world by pacting with Studios USA Domestic TV to pilot a daily half-hour newsmag, “Good News,” for a potential fall 2003 rollout.

Project, produced by Studios USA in association with Overbrook, will chronicle struggles and triumphs of inspirational individuals, including celebrities, public figures and everyday heroes. Each seg will be told from the perspective of someone who has been touched by the subject.

Smith, Lassiter and Overbrook senior VP David Tochterman will exec produce, along with syndie vet Ann Lewis. Lewis spent a decade as a producer on “Entertainment Tonight” and also helped launch and was showrunner of “Access Hollywood.”

Smith and Lassiter brought the concept to Lewis to develop.

Studios USA Domestic TV prexy Steve Rosenberg said “there’s nothing like ‘Good News’ in syndication.”

“What makes this project even more attractive to us is the idea of working with Will Smith, James Lassiter and their strong creative team at Overbrook,” he added.

The magazine genre, which in the early 1990s was among the most saturated in syndication, may be approaching a comeback. Ratings for the existing programs in the genre have been generally buoyant this season, while most other syndie shows have struggled.

What’s more, several studios in addition to Studios USA — including “Extra” producer Telepictures — also are eyeing projects in the genre for fall 2003.

Telepictures’ mag development for next year comes in addition to “Celebrity Justice,” the “Extra” spinoff the studio is preparing to launch this fall.

The mag group has shaken out since the early ’90s, with Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight,” Warner Bros.’ “Extra,” King World’s “Inside Edition” and NBC’s “Access Hollywood” comprising the core surviving — and thriving — daily syndie mags.

“Access,” which bowed in September 1996, was the last syndie newsmag to be launched with staying power.

One difficulty mags have faced in the syndication marketplace is that they tend to be costly productions.

Mags also are designed to play in the already locked-up time periods on traditional local station affiliates following the network newscasts. These prime access time periods have been tied up for several years with such programs as “Wheel of Fortune,” “Jeopardy,” “Hollywood Squares” and the existing newsmags.

Distributors are eager to have standout offerings at the ready in the event some of those time periods begin to open up.