Syndie Savant Estey McLoughlin's CTD Plans
Coming up with first-run syndicated shows with staying power is one of the hardest jobs in television, and Hilary Estey McLoughlin may be as good at it as anybody in the business.
During her 27 years at Warner Bros.’ Telepictures Productions — the last seven as president — she had a hand in creating and overseeing such winners as Ellen, Extra, Judge Mathis, The People's Court and TMZ. She was also deeply involved in the development and launch of The Rosie O’Donnell Show, on which she served as executive producer for two seasons.
Last October, Estey McLoughlin made the leap to rival CBS Television Distribution as president of creative affairs. She now oversees CTD's large portfolio of franchise shows like Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and Entertainment Tonight, while looking for the next one.
In this interview with TVNewsCheck Contributing Editor Kevin Downey, Estey McLoughlin talks about working for a company with a station launch group in the corporate family, finding new shows within old shows, partnering with broadcasters and the benefits of testing.
An edited transcript:
How is your transition from Warner Bros. to CBS Television Distribution going?
So far, it has been a very positive experience. I’m excited to be working with a station group [CBS Television Stations], which I didn’t have the opportunity to do at Warner Bros.
That’s a great platform, given that it has CBS stations and duopolies. The duopolies present an opportunity for other types of programming.
In addition, we have giant, hit shows that have been around for a long time. That presents an opportunity to not only reinvent those brands, but also to create other brands off of those. That is something I’ve been thinking about a lot.
Are you saying you’re going to spin off new shows from Dr. Phil and other CTD shows?
I think Dr. Phil is a good platform. The Doctors has multiple hosts so that’s a potential platform to try out talent in new concepts. I think Arsenio Hall can be used to build up talent and to test out new ideas. Rachael Ray is a good platform to find experts. She has used co-hosts, too.
Entertainment Tonight and even The Insider might be good platforms to test out talent, ideas and new concepts.
Long-time Entertainment Tonight producer Linda Bell Blue is leaving the show to oversee Entertainment Tonight Studios. Will ET Studios produce some of those spinoffs?
We’re expanding the ET brand in different ways to reach viewers. We’re doing specials with OWN, TV Guide Network and other networks. They may be ET-branded shows or spinoffs of ET.
What else are you thinking about?
I’d like to try some tests. I’m a fan of getting to know what a show is and how it works. You then have something that is more viable for the marketplace. I’d like to do that with the CBS stations and other groups.
CBS has partnered with Tribune on a few shows: Arsenio, The Test and the ongoing test of Serch. How come?
Stations are eager to get into the programming business because they want to control their own fate. They want to have a hand in the creation of their shows.
There’s a risk involved. There’s a financial cost. But, the idea is that currently they are spending a lot of money on [syndicated] shows, but they don’t own those shows or benefit from them in the long term.
If they are going to be in the programming business, they have to have a plan. It’s harder than it looks. The financial models can go south very fast.
The good news about partnerships is that the stations are much more engaged in a show. They are invested in it, so they are much more involved in promoting the shows.
It’s something we are interested in doing, to figure out if there are models that work. We have a great relationship with Tribune and we’re looking to doing more [partnerships] with them in 2014 and 2015.
TV stations are reaping a fortune in retransmission content fees. Is some of that money coming to syndicators in the form of higher license fees?
I don’t see money pouring in. If anything, stations are trying to pay less for shows. They have P&Ls and bottom lines that they have to pay attention to, too.
I don’t see license fees returning to the days of Oprah Winfrey.
The consolidation of station groups gives them a lot of leverage. If you want to get on a great station group, now it’s do or die sometimes.
The retrans money should help, though, because it gives stations the confidence that they have a steady revenue stream. But I’m not sure where they are going to spend those dollars.
The ABC O&Os will have a big hole to fill because Katie is ending its brief run at the end of this season. Is CTD developing a show for that spot?