While Warner Bros.' recent daytime talk show talent--Tyra Banks and Ellen DeGeneres--had some previous brand appeal coming from their former lives as a model and comedian, respectively, Ablow comes to syndication as a relative unknown. He is an author of non-fiction books and six crime-based novels, including "Inside the Mind of Scott Peterson." He has testified as an expert witness on forensic psychiatry in highly publicized trials.
The lack of visibility hasn't deterred stations, including 19 major market Fox Television Stations that have committed to the show for the fall. Warner Bros. has made deals in 47 of 50 markets and 90 percent of the country. It has declared the show a "firm go."
"We are not reinventing the wheel," said Dick Robertson, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. "Win or lose--we swing for the fences."
Still, Warner Bros. is looking to offer an alternative to the talk show in which a therapist helps to solve people's problems on-air. Robertson said "Dr. Phil" attracts an older female audience; Keith Ablow will seek another demographic. "We believe the audience is looking for a contemporary point of view," he said.
King World Productions' "Dr. Phil" had massive marketing awareness when it launched because of Dr. Phil McGraw's years as a special guest on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Program analysts believe that viewers looked at "Dr. Phil" as a natural spinoff of "Oprah."
To combat this awareness problem, Warner Bros. will spend major marketing dollars on Ablow. Robertson said one key area is in buying national cable networks--something it did for Banks and DeGeneres. Additionally, Robertson said Warner Bros. would buy radio for marketing support.
Warner Bros. will also look to partner with an advertiser to help extend marketing awareness. Last year, Kellogg Co.'s Special K brand provided off-air marketing in print ads and other media for "The Tyra Banks Show." Michael Teicher, executive vp of media sales for Warner Bros., said he would pursue this type of relationship for Ablow.
Creatively, Dr. Keith Ablow's marketing message may play off comparisons to "Dr. Phil." Jim Paratore, executive vp of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and president of Telepictures Productions, explained: "We are offering a second opinion"--which, he said, could be the exact marketing message. Although they won't mention "Dr. Phil," the reference to the show "will be obvious."
Warner Bros. will do a mix of studio and tape for the hour-long talk show. Dr. Ablow says he is a bit nontraditional in his practice. His patients call him by his first name, and he counsels them in their offices or in their homes. "The same way we get away from the psychiatrist's office, we'll get out of the studio," he said.
Separately, Warner Bros. confirmed for this upcoming upfront market that it would not be selling the national advertising time in "Access: Hollywood," the big-rated syndicated magazine show it co-owns with NBC Universal.
NBC Universal will sell the national advertising time for the show's new season that begins in fall 2006. This would mean a boost to NBC Universal's advertising sales division, giving it a major prime access, high-rated, advertising-friendly magazine show to sell to advertisers.