Craig Ferguson in Final Negotiations With Tribune for 7 p.m. Syndicated Talkshow (EXCLUSIVE)

Craig Ferguson is in final negotiations with Tribune Media to host a daily syndicated half-hour talkshow that would air in the 7 p.m. hour across Tribune Broadcasting’s 42 stations.

The show is targeted to bow in fall 2015. It’s expected that Michael Naidus, exec producer of CBS’ “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson,” will be on board as showrunner of the show, which will blend comedy and talkshow elements. The intent is to rev up the hour leading into primetime with the Ferguson yakker paired at 7:30 p.m. with a prime sitcom rerun, a la “Two and a Half Men” or “The Big Bang Theory.”

Reps for Tribune Media and Ferguson declined to comment.

Tribune is in talks with distributors to handle national distribution of the show beyond its stations, which reach some 42% of U.S. TV households and cover key top markets including New York (WPIX), L.A. (KTLA) and Chicago (WGN). Tribune’s muscle with first-run syndie fare expanded last year when it doubled its station holdings with the $2.7 billion acquisition of the Local TV station group.

The Ferguson deal marks the first syndicated show of its kind developed for the access time period — the hour leading into primetime, or 7 p.m. PT/ET and 6 p.m. CT/MT — in years. Tribune took a shot at fielding the first latenight syndie yakker in years this past season with the return of Arsenio Hall. That show didn’t go the distance beyond one season. The hope is that Ferguson will bring an established fan base to a time period with far less talk/variety/comedy competition.

SEE ALSO: Craig Ferguson: ‘I Wanted to Leave the Show While I Was Still Enjoying It’

Clearances in access time periods may be hard to come by outside of Tribune markets. The established players are pretty well-entrenched: think “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy,” “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Insider,” “Extra” and “Access Hollywood.” But with local stations facing a drought of strong new sitcoms to program in the access hour, more stations that don’t have any of the first-run stalwarts may be open to a new entrant.

Among the distribs in the mix to handle national sales of the show is said to be Debmar-Mercury, which is already in business with Ferguson and Tribune on the syndie game show “Celebrity Name Game,” which will bow next month. “Name Game” is widely cleared on Tribune stations, and could be paired in the 7:30 p.m. slot with the new yakker if the show clicks in its first season.

The Tribune deal answers the question of what Ferguson planned to do next after announcing in April his plan to step down from the “Late Late Show” in December. Ferguson’s decision to move on after 10 years in the 12:35 a.m. slot behind David Letterman came as part of an unprecedented generational shakeup in latenight that started with the Jay Leno-Jimmy Fallon “Tonight Show” handoff last February. Letterman is poised to sign off next year after 30-plus years in latenight.

Specifics about Ferguson’s new show are still sketchy, but it’s expected to have a slot for guests and to be a showcase for the offbeat humor that has made Ferguson distinct among the latenight pack. On “Late Late Show,” Ferguson’s sidekick is a robot skeleton named Geoff who is dressed up as if headed for a “Price Is Right” taping (a joke inspired by the fact that the two shows are taped on the same lot), and Ferguson also has regular visits with Secretariat, aka two people inside a horse costume.

For Ferguson, the shift to syndication will require some tailoring of his unique brand of yucks for a broader audience in an earlier time period and in a 30-minute format vs. an hour for “Late Late Show.” For Tribune, the move to recruit a marquee name is a sign that the company, under the leadership of network and cable programming vet Peter Liguori, is intent on using its formidable reach to be a bigger player and to shake up the conventions of local station programming outside of primetime.


Popular on Variety

More TV

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

  • Peter Fonda Dead: 'Easy Rider' Star

    Peter Fonda, Star of 'Easy Rider,' Dies at 79

    Two-time Oscar nominee Peter Fonda, who became a counterculture icon when he co-wrote, produced and starred in seminal 1969 road movie “Easy Rider,” then showed Hollywood he could act about three decades later in “Ulee’s Gold,” died on Friday from lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79. His sister Jane Fonda [...]

  • CineLink Drama Brings High-End Series to

    CineLink Drama Brings High-End Series to Sarajevo

    When the organizers of the Sarajevo Film Festival’s CineLink Industry Days surveyed the local TV landscape several years ago, they recognized the chance to make an impact. “We decided five years ago that we need to do something,” says CineLink industry coordinator Armin Hadzic. “The [regional] TV and public broadcasters were coming from another age.” [...]

  • SCHOOLED - ABC's "Schooled" stars Bryan

    'Kids Are Alright' Creator Joins 'Schooled' Season 2 as Showrunner

    Tim Doyle is taking over as showrunner and executive producer on the upcoming second season of “Schooled” at ABC, Variety has confirmed. Doyle takes over from Season 1 showrunner and series co-creator Marc Firek, who has exited the series to focus on development. The news comes just months after Doyle’s 1970s-set comedy series, “The Kids [...]

  • Matthew Miller'Lethal Weapon' TV series screening,

    'Lethal Weapon' Team Lands Put Pilot Order at Fox for Cop Drama 'Dead Eddie' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Matt Miller and Alex Taub are staying in business with Fox. The pair, who previously worked together on Fox’s series adaptation of “Lethal Weapon,” have scored a put pilot commitment at the broadcaster for a new drama project, Variety has learned exclusively. The drama is titled “Dead Eddie.” In the series, after a near-death experience, misanthropic [...]

  • Krypton Syfy

    'Krypton' Canceled After Two Seasons at Syfy, Network Not Moving Forward on 'Lobo' Spinoff

    “Krypton” has been canceled after two seasons at Syfy. In addition, the NBCUniversal cabler is not moving ahead with a planned “Lobo” spinoff. “Krypton,” set two generations before the destruction of Superman’s titular home planet, follows Superman’s grandfather Seg-El (Cameron Cuffe) as a young man faced with saving his home planet or letting it be [...]

  • Alexis Martin Woodall

    Alexis Martin Woodall Named President of Ryan Murphy Productions

    Longtime producer Alexis Martin Woodall has been tapped to become the president of Ryan Murphy Productions, giving her oversight of the Netflix-based company. As president, Woodall will manage Murphy’s company, continuing to be hands on in executive producing its TV productions and producing its films. “Alexis is brazen, sharp and incisive — qualities that have [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content