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Martha deals cooking

Stewart show pacts well done for fall

LAS VEGAS — NBC Universal Domestic TV is racking up station deals for its proposed daily hourlong series with Martha Stewart at such a fast clip that the company said the show will definitely make it to air in the fall.

Barry Wallach, president of domestic TV distribution for NBC U, said at the company’s booth on the floor of the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention here that stations in more than 60% of the country have signed up for the series, including outlets of the CBS, Hearst-Argyle, Gannett and Scripps Howard groups.

To the widely disseminated speculation that the stations buying Stewart’s still-untitled show plan to dump NBC U’s “The Jane Pauley Show,” Wallach said, “The two have no connection.” Most of these stations still have another year to go on their Pauley contracts. But industry observers say that if the show’s ratings don’t pick up in the large markets, it’s unlikely NBC U will hold its owned TV stations to the second year of a series that’s hurting them financially.

The go announcement for Stewart comes just one day after Warner Bros. Domestic TV announced at its suite in a hotel adjoining the convention hall that its proposed daily hourlong “Tyra Banks Show” had landed deals with the bulk of the Fox stations group, guaranteeing that it will be in production for a fall start.

‘Danza’ nears renewal

Buena Vista TV rookie “The Tony Danza Show” moved closer to a second-season renewal with the news that about 100 TV stations representing more than 70% of the U.S. have signed up to carry the yakker for the 2005-06 season.

The visible sign of all this wheeling and dealing was the packed floor of the NATPE convention at the Mandalay Bay Resort. Some of the major studios that had deserted the floor in the past few years were back with large booths stocked with gourmet food. “NATPE is back, big time,” said Dick Block, the veteran NATPE adviser and head of the Block Communications Group.

Traffic at NBC U’s booth was brisk as TV stations sought more information about the content of the Martha Stewart program, which Wallach said would not veer too far from her strengths. “She’ll still focus on food, decoration, lifestyle and home improvement,” he said.

But with Mark Burnett (“Survivor,” “The Apprentice”) as exec producer, “the show will have more energy, spontaneity and fun,” Wallach said. Stewart will appear before a live studio audience for the first time, he said, and she’ll invite more celebrities to show up as guests, although they’ll talk more about their macrame than about the plot of their new movie or TV series. Wallach expects most TV stations, including the NBC O&Os, all of which have bought the Stewart show, to play it in the morning.

Will ‘Quivers’ deliver?

With Stewart and Banks sure bets for the fall, all industry eyes shifted to Sony Pictures TV, which is trying to lock up a group deal for “The Robin Quivers Show.” Quivers and the Sony sales staff catered a dinner here Monday for the Tribune station group, which needs a fresh hour to take the time periods of the canceled NBC U series “Home Delivery.”

But Sony was also renewing its pitch to the Fox-owned stations, even though most of them made a commitment to the Banks talkshow. But the Fox stations have a number of shows they haven’t renewed, including “Good Day Live,” “Ambush Makeover” and “Texas Justice,” all from their sister company Twentieth TV.

In an interview in the Sony booth, Quivers said she’d continue to serve as Howard Stern’s sidekick on his morning radio show and do only one TV show each day. “I want to be current and topical and talk about what’s going on in the news,” she said. “I want my executive producer to have a background in news, not in talk, and I want to do more than one topic each hour. When I get together with my girlfriends, we don’t talk about just one topic.”