A Run for the Roses

New daytime syndication shows are always a run for the roses. Now, in the post-NATPE (National Association of Television Program Executives) period, shows in the home stretch are already stumbling.

Twentieth TV has stopped CNBC money gal Suze Orman's show in its tracks, or at least until next year. The show had key New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago clearances, but not much else.

That doesn't speak too well for the syndication industry. Rarely do syndicates give up hard-to-come-by big-market clearances, even if time periods would be on overnight schedules. In the old days, top market clearances would typically be the lynchpin to getting a show in the game and smaller market stations would usually follow.

No longer.

Too many shows give way to few time slots and then get on the air with flimsy 1.1 ratings, much to the disappointment of distributors. Middling rookie daytime shows -- "Larry Elder" and "Tony Danza" -- can attest to this.



With Orman on the financial sidelines, Sony Pictures Television will look to lift its show hosted by Howard Stern's sidekick, Robin Quivers.

Sony had no news to report during and after the NATPE convention - a sure sign it was considering a Twentieth move, that is, wait until for next season. Now with Orman in orbit, Quivers could grab stations Orman left behind including NBC-owned outlets in Chicago and Los Angeles.

But what hope is there of succeeding? History has shown the return on investment dwindles for each new wave of first-run programming. Each year, first-run syndicated shows come on the air only to grab even smaller ratings than new shows earned the year before. National syndication advertising revenues improve every year in syndication, but it doesn't seem to compensate for lower ratings.

Over the last several years, "Dr. Phil" scored as the only big syndication hit to come on line since "Rosie O'Donnell" in the mid '90s. Warner Bros. replaced "O'Donnell' with "Ellen DeGeneres" - a modest daytime performer.

This year, for good measure, Warner Bros. has pushed hot talent "Tyra Banks" to a healthy launch on Fox owned and operated stations. But as good as Banks is, few have any idea what her daytime show is about.

The same wishy-washy theme is at NBC Universal Television. It has that crazy homemaker extraordinaire, and ex-con, Martha Stewart - by way of Mark Burnett Productions - fronting a mainstream daytime show, which has been cleared on most NBC-owned stations.

What is this show about? I can't clearly tell you that either, though I wouldn't be too wrong in saying that makeovers, celebrities, food segments, and/or family problem solving would be the logical topics of the day.

That's not good enough. Okay. How about segments on wives-who-leave-their-husbands-for-their-vacuum cleaners? This always works for "Jerry Springer" and "Maury."

Nothing original. But that's okay. Viewers need something during daytime hours. Advertisers need to sell product. And syndicators have stopped looking to re-create the wheel.

We all need something to vamp until we get to our local news car chases.

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