This article was updated at 8:25 p.m.
LAS VEGAS — The big question on the NATPE floor Wednesday was just when and if two firstrun strips would indeed be declared firm goes for fall, but by late afternoon there was no official word from those rival syndicators that greenlights had been given.
Following a pre-emptive strike by Warner Bros Monday announcing most of the Fox O&Os had picked up “The Tyra Banks Show,” effectively guaranteeing it a launch pad, the onus shifted to Sony, which is clearing “The Robin Quivers Show,” and to Twentieth TV, which is touting “The Suze Orman Show.”
For its part, NBC Universal’s new strip with Martha Stewart was already assured a heads-up, as it has been cleared on all of the Peacock stations.
Ditto with Twentieth’s two other offerings — the revamped “Current Affair,” which launches in April with sports commentator Tim Green, and gaveler “Judge Alex,” which the syndicator said had reached the 65% threshold, including most of its owned stations. Another 15% of the country is being cleared as NATPE winds down, per the syndicator.
“Judge Alex” becomes the first new court show to get launched into syndication in four years.
“The strong momentum ‘Judge Alex’ has enjoyed coming into NATPE continues to build here in Las Vegas,” Twentieth topper Bob Cook said.
Meanwhile, scuttlebutt was that HBO’s top syndie exec Scott Carlin was shopping episodes of “The Sopranos” to possible cable outlets, The word late Wednesday was there were three final bidders: TNT, Spike and A&E, and the bidding had apparently climbed above $1.8 million an episode. (Record is held by the joint purchase by USA and Bravo of NBC U.’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” which fetched $1.92 million an episode.)
Most of these crucial deals are being negotiated at dinners or up in hotel suites, away from the madding crowd on the convention floor.
On the floor itself, business proceeded apace Wednesday, though there was no all-out bustle, except when the odd celeb held forth at one or another booth. A clutch of stars from Imagine’s sitcom “Arrested Development” glad-handed and posed with general managers for photographers.
Finally, panels unspooled throughout the day, pulling in, in some cases, several hundred attendees.
Yahoo’s new point person in Hollywood Lloyd Braun talked up the possibilities opening up for content producers with his portal, though he admitted the financial models for sharing potential revenues had not been fully worked out yet. (He’s been in his job for just two months and is opening an office in Santa Monica.)
At a session about new directions for reality, panelists agreed copycatting won’t stop, but put the emphasis on production values and unique twists. “There’s simply too many limos and too many tuxedoes in too many shows,” said “Amazing Race” exec producer Bertram Van Munster. “As long as people have original ideas for similar shows and a unique vision then the genre can keep going.”
Top network execs on the TV’s Next Top (Business) Model panel suggested video on demand could one day replace the syndie window as the marketplace driver.
One of the panelists, William Morris’ Jim Wiatt, told a crowded room his agency is carefully looking at what the business models will be for the explosion of new technologies such as VOD, the Internet and mobile phones.
Telemundo exec VP Ramon Escobar chatted with delegates about the ways in which his network is responding to the needs of the Hispanic audience — more original programming with themes and characters the largely Mexican-originated immigrants can relate to, he said.
And panelists in the key international session All Over the Map talked about the challenges of selling U.S. shows into foreign, and, from the other side, of buying them in a variety of territories with different tastes and cultural standards.
On the buying side, Bart Soepnal, from pan Euro station group SBS, said his various stations wanted “more well-written series” like “Sex and the City”; Sony’s Andy Kaplan, who oversees that conglom’s 40-odd foreign channels, cited “The Simpsons” as one of the more widely appreciated series abroad, even if difficult to acquire by a fledgling cabler. All panelists concurred India was a hot, rapidly evolving market, but as Fremantle’s Catherine Mackay pointed out, “China is a very long way off.”
(Pamela McClintock and Denise Martin contributed to this report.)