TVNewsCheck Focus On Syndication

Sony Selling 'Latifah' On Style And Substance

The syndicator’s pitch to stations using highly produced clips that focus on the star’s interviewing celebrities, music and feel-good philanthropic pieces has generated 80% U.S. clearance for its fall launch."The market really responded to Queen Latifah and the show," says Sony's John Weiser, who is wrapping up the final deals with stations.
TVNewsCheck,

If syndicators can take one thing away from last year’s TV marketplace, it’s that underpromising and overperforming may be the best way to make a broadcaster happy. Just ask a station that airs NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey.

With Queen Latifah, syndicator Sony Pictures Television has been steering clear of promising too much. Yet, it has been able to clear the variety-talk show in 80% of TV homes on station groups including CBS, Allbritton, Belo, Hearst, Local TV, Post-Newsweek, Raycom, Scripps, Sinclair and Weigel for its launch this fall.

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"The market really responded to Queen Latifah and the show," says John Weiser, president of distribution at Sony, who is wrapping up the final deals. "The potential is high. But that’s the market talking, not us.”

Neal Sabin, president of content and networks at Weigel Broadcasting, appreciated the approach and will air the show on independent WCIU Chicago, CBS affiliate WDJT-WMLW Milwaukee and ABC affiliate WBND-LD South Bend, Ind. “It has a chance to be a standout,” he says.

Rather than hyping the ratings, Sony has been emphasizing the show's creative evolution and its uniqueness.

The CBS O&Os, the show's launch group, have "great juggernauts on their lineups with Judge Judy and Dr. Phil,” says Sony EVP Holly Jacobs. “They have their topical talk with The Talk. They have their game shows. They don’t have a big, premium-blend entertainment show. This is that. We wanted to be a distinct show on their lineup.”

Brand Connections

Stations are picking up the show in two-year, cash-plus-barter deals (4 national minutes, 11 local).

“This is a big morning and afternoon show on some tremendous affiliates,” Weiser says. “We followed our successful Dr. Oz formula on Queen Latifah. We figured out our station partnership 18 months out. Then, we immediately got to work on the show’s look, its graphics, its stage — we’re building a custom soundstage. We’re working on our social media, our PR, our marketing and our multiplatform strategies.”

Sony is working on Queen in partnership with Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and Queen Latifah’s Flavor Unit Entertainment.

Sony’s pitch to stations includes highly produced clips that may be on the show. Among them is Latifah interviewing celebrities like actress Cameron Diaz. And there are feel-good, philanthropic pieces like Latifah surprising students with a chance to sing with Alicia Keys.

“It was very well done but, frankly, I don’t think it’s a reflection of what we’ll see every day,” says Bill Lord, general manager of Allbritton’s ABC affiliate WJLA Washington. “But her warmth and personality came across very strong. Based on that, our own research and internal discussions, we feel this is a very good program.”

Lord has not settled on a time slot for Queen, but WJLA’s 3 p.m. slot will open up when Warner Bros.’ Anderson Live finishes its two-year run at the end of this season.

Station GMs who’ve seen the pitch say the show is similar to Warner Bros.’ Ellen in that it will emphasize entertainment and variety.

“It’s a full hour of entertainment,” says Queen Executive Producer Corin Nelson, whose track record includes a long stint on the original Rosie O’Donnell Show. “So, whatever you think entertainment is will be on the show. That runs the spectrum from celebrities to comedy to pop culture.”

The show will also include segments outside the studio.

“We’ll have really interesting storytelling with real people, adventures and Queen Latifah herself in the field,” says Nelson. “Early on, [Overbrook’s] Jada Pinkett Smith said Queen is ‘of it, not above it.’ She’s very hands on. That became something important in the pilot development, to come up with stories that she can relate to and be a part of, rather than watch from the sidelines.”

Nelson and her team also expect to regularly get ideas from stations that carry the show.

“As an executive producer, I always say that we work for each station manager,” Nelson says. “We want to make sure that their towns, cities and viewers are thought of at all times. We want to make sure they are getting content they like and can relate to. Nobody knows those time slots in specific cities better than station managers.”

Latifah, who first came onto the Hollywood scene as a rapper, is also a talented singer. She will most likely sing on the show from time to time.

Nelson and her team still haven’t decided yet if Latifah will open the show with a recurring segment. And the show’s set design is still in the works.

“I don’t know yet what the set will look like,” Nelson says. “We will be on the Sony lot on two massive soundstages. There is a huge project going on where these soundstages are being turned into dressing rooms and green rooms on one side and the stage on the other side. Queen Latifah has already nicknamed the set ‘Big Sexy.’ She wants women to come in and have fun for an hour.”

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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 27, 2016
  • 1.
    3.0/11
  • 2.
    1.8/6
  • 3.
    1.2/4
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.2/1
Source: Nielsen

Reviews

  • Rob Owen

    Easily fall’s best broadcast network comedy pilot, NBC’s The Good Place offers a clever high-concept premise that’s complemented with intelligent, sometimes absurdist humor. Created by Michael Schur, co-creator of NBC’s Parks and Recreation, The Good Place is a highly serialized series that’s essentially set in heaven and stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. NBC made five episodes of The Good Place available for review, and the show not only holds up, but also it improves, deepening characters that initially feel one-note and frequently leaving viewers guessing with cliffhanger endings to many of the episodes. The combination of snappy dialogue and winning but flawed characters makes The Good Place a great bet for fans of smart TV comedy.

  • Maureen Ryan

    Pitch has swagger, for good reason. It gets the big things right; the Fox drama about the first female baseball player in the Major Leagues is one of the year’s most assured and exciting debuts. But part of what impresses about the pilot is also the way it confidently strings together so many small but telling details. Ginny (Kylie Bunbury) is the first woman to be called up from the minors to the big leagues, and no show since Friday Night Lights has done a better job of portraying the internal and external pressures that weigh heavily on young athletes asked to do much more than merely succeed on the field. Pitch will likely do a good job of getting viewers to root for it. The hope is that the show won’t be an impressive, short-lived curiosity, but rather a long-term phenomenon.

  • Kevin Fallon

    In a fall TV season that’s already making a splash for championing diverse, distinctive voices in an array of projects that they created, wrote, and starred in, Better Things on FX stands out. The show is created by, written by, and starsPamela Adlon. She plays Sam Fox, the single mother of three daughters modeled after her own reality-show-ready experience raising three girls in Los Angeles following a divorce. Sam is also, like Adlon, a working actress — on shows both raunchy, a la Californication, and animated for children, like her role on Recess. It’s a refreshingly blunt take on single motherhood without sacrificing the warmth of parental love, portraying the dance between selfishness and selflessness that’s at the heart of being a parent — especially one weathering the hormonal fireworks of a household of four women at different ages.

  • David Wiegand

    The fall TV season doesn’t count as much as it used to — we already know that. But no matter how many retreads the broadcast networks throw at viewers in the next few months, this fall will be memorable because of the premiere of Atlanta on Tuesday, Sept. 6, on FX. The half-hour comedy created by and starring Donald Glover (Community), simply and brilliantly recalibrates our expectations of what a TV comedy is and how black lives are portrayed on the medium.

  • Louisa Ada Seltzer

    The second reboot of the 1980s John Candy movie Uncle Buck, bumped by ABC from midseason, has the same tired jokes you'll find on any second-rate sitcom. Too bad, because Mike Epps is appealing and ABC would be wise to keep him around for future shows, but there’s just not enough to this show to suggest it will last past summer. It also airs against NBC’s America’s Got Talent, summer’s No. 1 program on broadcast, which may make it even harder to find an audience.

  • Neil Genzlinger

    Bryan Cranston brings his Tony Award-winning interpretation of President Lyndon B. Johnson to television in an adaptation of the Robert Schenkkan play All the Way, and it’s still quite a sight to behold, just as it was on Broadway in 2014. Nothing beats witnessing this kind of larger-than-life portrayal onstage, of course. But the television version, presented by HBO, offers plenty of rewards, allowing Cranston to work the close-ups and liberating him from the confines of a theater set. Cranston’s performance is a gem — in his hands, this accidental president comes across as an amazing bundle of contradictions, someone who seems at once too vulgar for the job and just right for it.

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