Lighter fare, self-help in Petry syndie dish

Stations demanding that type of p'gramming, VP-director sez

NEW YORK — Petry Media unveiled its NATPE 2004 programming guide under the banner “Syndication gets a makeover.”

According to Petry, “Light, up-tempo entertainment and serious self-help have replaced tawdry talk as the top syndicated fare and, based on the development for fall, that trend will continue.” Success of shows such as “Dr. Phil,” “Oprah” and the Meredith Vieira-hosted “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” were cited as examples.

The recent success of lighter fare/family entertainment marks “a whole different place from where we were,” said Petry VP-director Garnett Losak. “That’s what cable is doing and that’s what stations are demanding.”

Petry has also identified reality programming — more narrowly defined as unscripted programming with real persons interacting in real situations — as “the next frontier” on syndication.

“Primetime and cable are being overrun” with these reality shows, “and it is inevitable that it will spill to syndication,” she said. “Stations no longer need to feel tied to court as the only alternative to talk,” and the Petry report further underlines that low production costs of reality shows, on average, means that stations can get them cheaper.

According to the November books, “Martha Stewart Living” led the reality category. Petry also had mixed praise for “Starting Over,” already renewed by the NBC O&Os. Strip has a solid foundation but “at this point has not developed to the point where it can compete effectively with the top franchises.”

From the fall-launch choices, Petry does not recommend specific shows, warning that all markets are different. Losak did suggest, however, that Universal Domestic TV’s “Home Delivery” would be one to watch, especially for the bigger stations in midsize markets.

On the talkshow circuit, “Oprah” and “Dr. Phil” are the acknowledged favorites. Rookie “Ellen” is labeled a “rising star” that should be considered for upgrades and “Montel” has proven itself against “Oprah” in certain markets. “Maury” has stood its ground in younger demos, especially against “Dr. Phil,” and “Springer” can still hold its own with women 18-34 against “Oprah” and with women 25-54 vs. “Dr. Phil.” Report suggests upgrading gabbers to the 5 p.m. slot in lieu of local news will goose ratings, but there are no guarantees the aud windfall will carry over to 6 p.m. news.

As for the recent spate of chat cancellations, “The ones that have not been great are going away,” said Losak. “It’s a healthy marketplace.”

Petry says launch of “Jane Pauley” in early fringe (4-7 p.m.) against “Dr. Phil” and “Oprah” will be a “trial by fire.” As for “On Air With Ryan Seacrest,” which launched only last week, the jury is still out.

In the courtroom, justice is still being served, but with no new shows on the horizon, the court trend “may have plateaued.” Although “Hollywood Squares” and “Pyramid” were handed pinkslips, Petry believes the gamer category is still healthy, particularly given the sophomore strength of “Millionaire.” Meanwhile, it’s been a rockier year for relationship strips.

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