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Syndie Savant Estey McLoughlin's CTD Plans

Hilary Estey McLoughlin, president of creative affairs at CBS Television Distribution, 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.
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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.

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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?

Brand Connections

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?

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veteranmanager Nickname posted over 3 years ago
That 'fortune' in retrans fees is significantly reduced by affiliate payments to their respective networks.
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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 22, 2016
  • 1.
    4.0/14
  • 2.
    1.7/6
  • 3.
    1.3/5
  • 4.
    0.9/3
  • 5.
    0.6/2
  • 6.
    0.3/1
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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