NBC O&Os Still Syndication's Go-To Group
Just as it was last year at this time, the NBC Owned Television Stations is the key to the first-run broadcast syndication marketplace.
For eight of its 10 stations, including WNBC New York and KNBC Los Angeles, the group is looking for a replacement for Jeff Probst, the freshman talk show from CBS Television Distribution that stumbled badly out of the gate last month.
And at least two of the major syndicators would like to supply the replacement. Sony Pictures Television is pitching Queen Latifah and NBC Universal is said to developing a show tailor-made for the NBC daytime schedule.
In the past, the NBC stations were the launch group of last resort. But the group may finally have shaken its loser image. Last year, NBC gave homes to two new high-profile shows — Probst and Steve Harvey from NBCUniversal.
While Probst has been struggling, Harvey has blossomed into a solid companion and lead-in for Ellen. In three markets, Harvey and Ellen air at 2 and 3 p.m.; in five others, at 3 and 4.
In October so far, Harvey's rating on the NBC stations is up 89% over its time slot average last year, to a 1.7 household rating, based on Nielsen weighted ratings. It’s up 140% among women 25-54 to a 1.2. Ellen, which leads out of Harvey, is up 28% in households to a 2.3. It’s up 23% in women 25-54 to a 1.6 rating.
“Just a few weeks ago, NBC stations had an entire afternoon of problems,” says one syndication executive. “Now, in just a few weeks, after having a daytime problem for years, they have [only] one problem,” he says referring to Probst.
Syndicators are particularly interested in replacing Probst in those five markets where it leads directly into the Harvey-Ellen combo — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Hartford, Conn.
As the syndicator that brought Harvey to the NBC stations last year, NBCUniversal may have the inside track on providing the Probst replacement. It also doesn't hurt that NBCUniversal is a member of the same corporate family (Comcast).
An NBC spokesperson says it’s too early for NBC Owned executives to comment about fall 2013.
The NBC stations have earned the respect of syndicators in other ways. Since joining the group in 2011, President Valari Staab has invested heavily not only in syndicated programming, but also in news and promotion.
The investments are paying off.
The afternoon news ratings are mostly up. At WNBC New York, for instance, it’s up 33% in adults 25-54 to a 0.8/4 so far this season. Its household rating is down 5% to a 1.8/4. On KNBC Los Angeles, it’s up 40% to a 0.7/3 in adults 25-54. And it’s up 27% in households to a 1.9/4.
Another source of a replacement for Probst could be its own syndicator, CTD. But there are no indication that it is mounting an effort.
Right now, things are unsettled at CTD. CBS CEO Les Moonves earlier this month tossed out CTD President John Nogawski, folding the division in with CBS Studios International under the direction of Armando Nunez.
And then just yesterday, the syndicator replaced outgoing programming chief Aaron Meyerson with Maureen FitzPatrick and Joe Ferullo, who were both appointed to senior vice president of programming.
There may be another opportunity for syndicators on NBC's morning schedule where NBC's Access Hollywood Live is playing to so-so ratings and is up for renewal in 2013. If Sony can't sell Latifah into Probst's spot, it could go for AHL's.
Another reason that syndicators are focused on NBC is that the other launch groups are pretty much set. “When you look at this fall and next fall, ABC and CBS will basically be unchanged,” says one syndication executive.
ABC O&Os are in the first year of a two-year deal with Disney-ABC’s Katie. In addition, most long-running shows aren’t up for renewal until 2014, notably CBS Television Distribution’s Dr. Phil, which airs on many CBS O&Os.
Fox TV Stations have picked up Bethenny from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. However, the group may have some slots to fill if Warner Bros.’ Anderson Live doesn’t return after this season.
Fox could be an alternative for Sony and Latifah. Fox airs Sony’s Dr. Oz on seven stations, including WNYW New York and WFLD Chicago.
Tribune, which has Twentieth Television’s Ricki on some stations, is developing its own programming, including court shows with the likes of attorney Michael William Lebron.
The answer to the question of the fate of Latifah, which counts highly paid actor Will Smith among its executive producers, should come in the next two or three weeks.
People who have seen the Latifah pilot say the show is a combination of Ellen and the old Oprah Winfrey Show. It is upbeat with celebrity interviews and inspirational stories about real people who are making a positive impact on the world.