Syndie Sees Cable As Potential Biz Provider

The syndication business will change in the coming years because of new programs coming from--ironically--cable networks, the industry's long-time competitors.

As cable networks develop bigger libraries of programs--and as TV stations still have a growing program need--Katz Television Group, the TV station sales representative, anticipates more cable programs landing on TV stations' lineups over the next two years.

Katz made these conclusions in its annual survey of the syndication business on the eve of the National Association of Television Program Executives meeting in Las Vegas.

"The cable arena has proved to be a vibrant source of new content for broadcast syndication over the last few years," said Anthony Spirito, director of programming for Katz Television Group, in a release.

In particular, new off-cable titles will be split between two modestly sized, independent syndicators: Debmar Mercury and Litton Syndication. For instance, Debmar is offering two of the Discovery Channel's biggest series: "American Chopper" and the "Deadliest Catch." Litton Syndication will syndicate MTV shows "Pimp My Ride" and "Cribs."

"Regardless of overall performance, the pipeline of alternatively sourced content for broadcast syndication keeps growing each year," said Spirito. "With dozens of cable channels now producing original programming and a burgeoning content engine called the worldwide Web, this pipeline will continue to grow more vibrant in the future."

Two new first-run talk shows to debut next season have been recommended by Katz for TV stations to buy--"The Bonnie Hunt Show" from Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution and CBS Television Distribution's "The Doctors." Still, Katz is cautious--concerned about major-market time-period clearances and the rating challenges those time periods bring.

Other Monday-to-Friday show recommendations include the syndicated version of "Deal or No Deal" from NBC Universal; Sony Pictures Television's "Judge Karen Mills;" and Debmar-Mercury's off-TBS sitcom "House of Payne," as well as the board-game-turned-TV-show "Trivial Pursuit: America Plays." For once-a-week airings, Katz says stations should chose Twentieth Television's "Boston Legal" or "Rescue Me."

Although the syndication business has been somewhat stagnant in terms of overall ratings and shadowed by the limelight of new digital TV technologies, Katz believes prospects exist.

"In this digital age, we all face new challenges and opportunities from the Internet and multicasting," said Bill Carroll, vice president and director of programming for Katz Television Group. "But we still need to concentrate on the present by examining the fall 2007 program performance and the opportunities that exist for next fall and beyond."

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