TVNewsCheck Focus on Syndication

NBC's Swindler Has Strong Hand With Vieira

Edward Swindler, head of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution is going into the fall with syndication's brightest new offering, The Meredith Vieira Show. He talks about that as well as Steve Harvey, the fate of such shows as Trisha Goddard and opportunities for fall 2015 that include Katie’s soon-to-be vacated time slots on the ABC O&Os.
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Edward Swindler's timing could not have been better. When the 30-year NBC executive added oversight of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution last summer, the syndication unit was enjoying the first-season success of Steve Harvey, its first talk show since Steve Wilkos in 2007 and first non-conflict show since the short-lived Megan Mullally in 2006. Steve Harvey has gotten only stronger in its second season.

Swindler hopes to keep the momentum going this fall with The Meredith Vieira Show, this season’s only new, big-name, big-budget syndicated talk show.

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In 2013, Swindler was promoted to president of NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution and president of operations at NBC Broadcast, reporting to Ted Harbert, chairman of NBC Broadcasting. Based in New York, he continues in that role where he is responsible for maximizing the revenue and profitability of the NBC network, its local stations, domestic distribution, first-run syndication and affiliate relations.

Swindler joined NBC in 1984. Prior to the 2013 promotion, he served six years as EVP and chief operating officer of NBC Universal Ad Sales, overseeing sales operations, pricing and planning for $7 billion in annual sales across broadcast, cable and digital. Before that, he held a variety of strategy, pricing and financial jobs.

In this interview with TVNewsCheck Contributing Editor Kevin Downey, Swindler talks about Meredith, Steve Harvey, the fate of such shows as Trisha Goddard and opportunities for fall 2015 that include Katie’s soon-to-be vacated time slots on the ABC Owned Television Stations.

An edited transcript:

Brand Connections

How is your transition to syndication going at NBCUniversal?

I spent most of the last 30 years on the national networks, NBC, in particular, but also the cable networks. I spent much of that time as chief operating officer of the ad sales group across those networks. Syndication is an interesting space. It’s more robust than I thought it would be. It’s a lot of fun.

Why do you think Steve Harvey has been successful?

The first reason is that Steve is as talented a host as there is. He proves that every day. He is naturally funny. And, in the second season, he has evolved into one of the premiere talk show hosts.

Once you meet him, it’s very clear why he is successful. He is extraordinarily relatable. He is also a very hard-working guy.

His show was up by more than a third [38%] in homes and about a quarter [22%] in women 25-54 in the November sweeps. I think that reflects that people are finding him. We had a goal to broaden out the show, which we have done. We had a goal to fix some of the markets that were underperforming, which we have done.

Also, Alex Duda and Rushion McDonald, his two executive producers, are very, very good at this. There is the nuts-and-bolts of producing and marketing and selling a show. Then, there is the creative. We are strong in both of those areas.

How important to Steve’s success is its pairing with Warner Bros.’ Ellen on many stations?

It’s very helpful to both shows. He brings an audience to Ellen that she probably didn’t have. The cross-promotion has helped Steve. But these are the two best shows in the afternoon in first-run syndication. They are very fun to watch and they flow well together.

What are your expectations for Meredith Vieira this fall?

Our expectation is that it will be successful, creatively, and in the ratings. All the legs that hold up a show in syndication are in excellent shape: clearance, ad sales, the creative and casting.

It’s cleared in more than 90% of the country, which is a reflection of the great work of Sean O’Boyle and his team. Within that 90%, more than 90% is cleared on very strong NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates. It has got a leg up.

Ad sales are equally important in a show’s first year. We are in the marketplace with partnerships that we hope to get done before the upfront.

Creatively, the show is in good shape. Valerie Schaer [EVP, creative affairs] is my partner in this. She is our chief creative. She worked with Meredith on The View. It’s a great team.

We expect this to be a successful launch. There are no other shows of this level coming out in the fall, which we hope will be helpful to us.

Are you expecting Meredith to be profitable in its first or second seasons?

I never comment on the financial outlook for a show. But, at NBCUniversal we do the responsible thing, in terms of program costs and license fees. We do the right thing to maintain long-term relationships with affiliates and we do the right thing in ad sales for long-term relationships with our key clients.

You set all of these things so you have a profitable trajectory over the course of a show’s life. These shows, when they succeed, are quite profitable. We set it up to be profitable, but I can’t comment on whether or not we’ll be successful out of the gate. These are long-term bets.

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Ratings

Overnights, adults 18-49 for September 29, 2016
  • 1.
    1.6/6
  • 2.
    1.2/4
  • 3.
    1.2/4
  • 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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