Handicapping NATPE

Katz tips 'Insider,' Seacrest, 'Jim' as hot

HOLLYWOOD — With the annual NATPE confab a week away, stations around the country are searching for clues as to what shows to buy for the upcoming season.

One of the three major rep firms, Katz, has just released its rundown of new syndie contenders, both firstrun and off-net.

Among the firm’s findings: Paramount’s “The Insider” may well make moolah out of upcoming celebrity trials, Ryan Seacrest may rep the most intriguing trend in talk since Ricki Lake, and “According to Jim” will likely be a rerun winner in 2006.

Although the reports by rep firms to their station clients have become less critical of specific shows over the years, station buyers, especially in smaller markets, still use them to determine what might work for them.

Katz typically unveils its program recommendations a month or so before the National Assn. of Television Program Executives confab. The 41st edition unspools Sunday-Jan. 21 in Las Vegas.

The other key rep firms, Petry and Telerep, will unveil their recommendations to clients at NATPE.

This year, the Katz report was distributed to 350-odd client stations via satellite in late December and was broken down by category.

Talk of the town

The liveliest sector in the syndie biz is talk.

Of returning gabbers, the rejuvenated “Oprah,” “Dr. Phil” and “Live With Regis & Kelly” remain the key players in daytime ratings.

The perfs of freshman talkers “Ellen” and “Sharon Osbourne” are “solid,” with Warner Bros. already seeking upgrades for DeGeneres’ show in its second year.

On the other hand, “disappointment” was the word Katz used to describe King World’s “Living It Up With Ali & Jack.”

Meanwhile, “On Air With Ryan Seacrest,” which launches todayon the Fox O&Os, is “an interesting attempt at transitional fare aimed at the now slightly older MTV ‘Total Request Live’ audience,” said Bill Carroll, Katz VP/director of programming.

On Thursday, Buena Vista announced “Wayne Brady” had not been renewed; it is widely believed “Tony Danza” will get a shot as his replacement. But without a pilot or solo hosting segments, Katz told its clients it couldn’t make a recommendation for the newcomer.

Daytime ‘Style’

Sony’s “Life & Style” is “best suited for traditional affiliate daytime play,” Carroll said, referring to stations aligned with ABC, CBS and NBC.

As for newsmags, the key players in the genre haven’t changed much. Nor has the pecking order among syndie newsmags. But trials of high-profile celebrities could help boost ratings over the next year.

Paramount’s newcomer “The Insider” is “a sure thing,” Katz director of programming Anthony Spirito said, with “deals already having been done well before the close of 2003 and with the benefit of clearances on the CBS affiliates in the Viacom station group.”

Gameshows stable

As for games and relationship shows, not much is budging.

Perennials “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy!” may continue to play out “another 20 years,” Katz pundits opined, pointing out that only five gameshows introduced in the past six seasons have had even a modicum of success. No new contenders are coming in 2004.

“The relationship format continues to sizzle on the networks and cable, especially in the summer months, when the weather is warmer and libidos are hotter,” Katz director of program research Lisa Hollaender said. “But in syndication, the genre (“Blind Date,” “Fifth Wheel,” etc.) seems to have hit a wall.”

The court genre has been fairly quiet over the past two years, with no new programs since “Texas Justice” in fall 2001.

The current season saw only two new reality shows: “Starting Over” and “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.” Both disappointed.

While many primetime reality shows have solid track records on the networks, reality in syndication has not fared as well, though several companies are trying to change that.

New strip concepts

NBC Enterprises has a clutch of makeover strip concepts, but the one with the most buzz is “Gal Pals,” produced by the team behind Bravo’s “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.”

And Twentieth TV will take its strip “Ambush Makeover” nationwide after having tested it in the metered markets since last summer.

For 2004, Sony is fielding self-help guru “Pat Croce: Moving In.” He will do just that: Come into willing families’ homes to work out their issues.

“Our qualified recommendation for ‘Pat Croce’ is for daytime play, perhaps in tandem with other reality half-hours,” Spirito said.

Off-net forecast

Finally, on the off-net front, Katz is recommending “My Wife and Kids” in 2005, with “8 Simple Rules” also on its contenders list. Among options for 2006, only “According to Jim” gets an unequivocal Katz thumbs-up.

As for drama reruns, Katz suggests “CSI” for 2004 and “24” for 2005.

“Success in primetime for sitcoms has always been difficult,” said Ruth Lee Leaycraft, Katz VP/director of programming for continental TV sales. Thus, she suggested, “Renewals … may present a better value than some newer offerings coming to market.”

Katz TV programmers not only advise 350 client stations on the potential of syndie shows, but suggest when and where programs should be placed on local market skeds. Parent Katz Television Group reps national ad sales for those same clients.

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