Let’s get busy…again. Arsenio Hall returns to late-night

Welcome back, Arsenio Hall!

Move over Frank Woolanski, here’s comes someone who packed a lot of bark in late-night back in the day – and is looking to woof again.

CBS Television Distribution and Tribune Broadcasting announced today it will launch a new late-night talk show with Arsenio Hall beginning in September 2013, returning him to the daypart that made him famous and reuniting with his former syndicator.

Rumblings of Aresnio Hall returning to late-night was first reported at Broadcasting & Cable’s website on May 29, and was mentioned on T Dog Media a day later.

Tribune flagship WGN-TV in Chicago will air Arsenio Hall at 10 p.m. leading out of local news, in a time period now occupied by off-network sitcoms. New York’s WPIX and Los Angeles’ KTLA have cleared the show at 11 p.m., also out of local news. This is the first talk show Tribune has cleared in the late fringe daypart in twenty years (in 1992, Tribune distributed the short-lived Dennis Miller Show, lasting just eight months.)

Sean Compton, president of programming at Tribune, said he held discussions with Hall a while back for a possible revival. According to B&C, the project was dubbed Project Dogpound, named for the woofing Arsenio’s audience would chant.

In addition to Tribune, Arsenio has cleared stations in the Local TV group (including Fox affiliate WITI in Milwaukee), and CBS-owned stations not affiliated with CBS, giving the show 55 percent clearance right off the bat. The clearances include seventeen of the top twenty markets, plus all of the top ten.

Stations that were incumbent Arsenio affiliates back in the day who are clearing the new version thus far include San Francisco (KBCW, then known as KBHK), Cleveland (WJW, 1989-93), Norfolk (WGNT), New Orleans (WNOL), and St. Louis (KTVI). Originally, Arsenio was cleared on the Chris-Craft/United group (who owned WWOR in New York and KCOP in Los Angeles) and CBS-owned WBBM-TV in Chicago.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Arsenio is expected to be sold on a straight barter basis, with at least half of the commercial time to be kept by CBS to sell to national advertisers (local stations get the rest.)

Quotage ahead… first, from CBS Television Distribution President John Nogawski: “We’re excited to welcome Arsenio back to the family and partnering on his new, late-night syndicated talk show. Arsenio had a substantial following with his previous late-night show, and that same 18-34 audience is now right in the middle of the late-night core audience of 35-54. Years ago, he transcended time periods and attracted a cross-over audience while bringing a fresh perspective to late night. That same need in the market exists today as when we originally launched. We are looking forward to the same success with Arsenio’s seasoned expertise and appeal in this genre.”

Added Nogawski, “We’re excited that Arsenio’s show is the first syndicated show set for Fall 2013. Partnering with such a strong group of stations as Tribune Broadcasting, as well as the sales to CBS and Local TV stations in key markets, will be integral to the show’s success.”

From the CEO of Tribune Broadcasting, Nils Larsen: “Tribune’s financial commitment to the production of the show reflects our belief that the growth of the broadcast business lies in investing in top-tier programming and content. Arsenio has a proven track record of success, and we are excited to partner with CBS Television Distribution on the production of Arsenio, with Tribune serving as the cornerstone of the station launch group.”

And from Arsenio Hall himself: “It’s an amazing feeling to be going HOME to my old friends and colleagues and firing up our “Night Thing”. Let’s get busy … AGAIN!”

Cleveland-born Arsenio Hall – a comedian who credits included The Real Ghostbusters and co-starring opposite Eddie Murphy in the 1988 flick Coming To America, hosted his late-night talk show from January 3, 1989 to May 27, 1994, and was a major hit among young viewers. Hall had kept a low profile since his talk show ended, aside from starring in a short-lived 1997 ABC sitcom, aptly titled Arsenio.

Hall raised his profile with his victory on Celebrity Apprentice last month.

With the deal, Hall reunites with his former employer, then known as Paramount Domestic Television. Viacom – previously known as CBS Films and spun off the network in 1971 – bought Paramount Pictures in 1993 (the last season of Hall’s talk show), merging the company’s syndication unit with Paramount’s. Viacom then reunited with CBS by buying the network in 1999, but was the transaction was reversed in 2005 when Viacom split off into two publicly traded companies, with the newly CBS Corporation gaining rights to all broadcast television product it had in the Viacom/Paramount libraries, thus the renaming of Paramount Domestic Television to CBS (Paramount) Television Distribution.