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Talk shows battle it out for audiences

NATPE @ 50

Hoping to become the new queens of daytime, Queen Latifah and Bethenny Frankel are leading this year’s NATPE parade.

Annual confab is returning to the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach.

Even though the most recent crop of talkshow rookies — with the exception of NBC-Universal’s “Steve Harvey” — has had difficulty finding its footing, distributors are bringing six firstrun shows to market this year.

Warner Bros.’ “Bethenny” and Sony Pictures Television’s “Queen Latifah” both are fully cleared across the country in daytime slots, while CBS Television Distribution’s “The Arsenio Hall Show” is ready in latenight. On smaller scales are Warner Bros.’ “TMZ Live,” MGM Domestic Television Distribution’s “Paternity Court” and CTD’s “The Test.”

“Latifah” is the most traditional of these launches, with Sony getting started on its sales efforts six months before it actually began pitching the show to stations last September. It eventually won plum slots on the CBS-owned television stations for its efforts.

“We’ve literally gotten best-in-class stations across the board as we’ve been going through the markets,” says John Weiser, president of distribution for Sony Pictures Television. “In almost every case, the markets responded with multiple offers.”

“Queen Latifah,” intended to be a broad entertainment talker, is cleared across the country in an equal division of morning and afternoon timeslots on the CBS, Belo, Hearst, Sinclair and other mostly Big Three-affiliated stations, says Weiser. SPT is producing the show with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Overbrook Prods., which is housed at Sony, and with Queen Latifah’s production company.

Warner Bros.’ “Bethenny” got a second lease on life after failing to get cleared in fall 2011’s daytime derby. Warner Bros. persisted and Fox was interested in testing the show, so the studio and the station group ran a six-week test last summer.

Fox was happy with the results and closed a deal to launch it in fall last Labor Day. With strong ratings results in hand, it was a pretty quick run for Warner Bros. to close deals for the show, which was first developed within Warner Bros.’ “Ellen,” across the rest of the country.

” ‘Bethenny’ is designed to be a daytime player between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. out of the box,” says Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, noting that “Bethenny” is cleared on Fox-owned stations covering nearly 40% of the country. Most of the rest of the show’s clearances are on traditional ABC, CBS and NBC affiliates.

CTD, in partnership with Tribune Broadcasting, is bringing Arsenio Hall back to latenight, with clearances from 10 p.m. to midnight across Tribune, CBS and other station groups.

Hall, 56, knows that latenight — with talents such as Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert firmly in place — is a far more crowded field than when he was the popular new kid on the block in the early ’90s.

“When I first did this, it was a small world in which Johnny (Carson) was king, so I could do my show for the demographic that I liked. It’s not as easy anymore,” Hall says. “Back then, I found my game based on what Johnny didn’t want. Now it’s a little more complicated.”

Although he may have been out of the game for a while, Hall still believes he knows what will fed the pop culture buzz.

Considering his dream gets, Hall ponders: “If I could open the show with Justin Bieber and Beyonce’s baby, then everything will be fine.”

NATPE @ 50
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