Katie Couric. Steve Harvey. Ricki Lake. Jeff Probst.
All four are headed to syndication next fall to host their own talk shows in what’s already considered a crowded field.
Oprah Winfrey wrapped her run last season and Regis Philbin exited “Live!” in November, but daytime remains a chatty place. Dr. Phil McGraw, Kelly Ripa, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Ellen DeGeneres continue to hold forth each day, and this year they were joined by Anderson Cooper, Jeremy Kyle and Dr. Drew Pinsky.
The networks have been getting into the act, too, with CBS adding “The Talk” in fall 2010 and ABC launching “The Chew” last fall and “The Revolution” this month.
For consumers of TV talk, all this choice must be like having lunch every day at the Country Buffet. TV stations like it too, because for the first time in years, they have some leverage over distributors and some decisions to make about what they want to put on their air.
For distributors, however, it’s a different story.
“All of these talkshows are good for the industry,” says Bill Carroll, VP and director of programming for Katz Television Group. “In the simplest of terms, the more opportunities, the more chances you have to succeed.
“It’s also a good sign for broadcast television that we’re not only doing the third and fourth runs of court shows, but we’re actually doing new and reasonably high-profile programs. At a time when there are a lot of questions about daytime in broadcast, this is a good sign.”
Agrees one station executive: “Strategically, we are going to be able to do some fun things next year. The more stuff the merrier.”
Distributors, however, are less sanguine. No one expected four new talkshows to get cleared for next fall, but that was made possible in November when Fox agreed to take Warner Bros.’ “Anderson” off Tribune’s hands in New York, where it’s not turning in a strong performance on WPIX at 4 p.m.
That move allowed Tribune to pick up Twentieth’s “Ricki Lake,” which had been looking for a station launch group for months.
Renewing “Anderson” and picking up “Ricki” seemed to force NBC’s hand, leading to the acquisition of CBS Television Distribution’s “Jeff Probst,” assuring its launch as well and adding a fourth newbie talkshow to the mix. Disney-ABC’s “Katie” and NBCU’s “Steve Harvey” already had found launch groups in ABC and NBC, respectively, and were well on their way to securing national distribution.
Once that dust settled, syndicators quickly went from joy that they had successfully sold their shows to concern when they realized how tough it was going to be to clear these new shows in the smaller markets where there are fewer stations and thus fewer time periods. Syndicators need to clear their shows across the entire country to get the best exposure for national advertisers.
“There are too many talkshows in the market, both from a ratings and a competition perspective, but that is good for consumers,” says Mort Marcus, president of Debmar-Mercury Television, which distributes shows including “Jeremy Kyle,” “Wendy Williams” and “South Park.”
Says another syndicator: “I would prefer there not to be so many competitors out there running around with a TV show right now. There are two too many shows out there.”
Still, getting and keeping a talk show on the air remains a good business to be in, and that’s why so many syndicators are making the effort.
“Not all of these shows are going to survive,” says Stephen Brown, senior VP of programming and development at Twentieth Television, “but the cream always rises to the top.”
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