In a stunning surprise – and perhaps a thumb to the nose of vertical integration – NBC Universal Television Distribution has sold Harry, a new talk hour featuring musical artist Harry Connick Jr., was sold to the seventeen Fox-owned and operated stations – including the Fox duopoly here in Chicago, WFLD and WPWR for next fall.
NBCU is now selling Harry to other station groups.
Harry is being pitched as a daytime talk-variety hour – in the same vein of Warner Bros.’ The Rosie O’Donnell Show, which debuted in June 1996 and became a huge smash.
The talk show was thought to be in development at the NBC-owned stations, which is a sibling of NBCU as a possible replacement for the syndicator’s The Meredith Vieira Show, whose future looks incredibly more and more bleak.
In its second season, Meredith is averaging an unimpressive 0.9 season-to-date household rating. The series has undergone numerous format changes during its time on the air to draw more viewers. If Meredith doesn’t come back for a third season, there is a possibility NBC-owned stations in Miami, San Diego, and Hartford – markets where Fox doesn’t own a station – could pick up Harry as a replacement, while other NBC O&Os – including WMAQ in Chicago – will have to find something else.
In 2012, CBS Television Distribution sold The Jeff Probst Show to the NBC-owned stations in the last major non-vertical integration deal. In Chicago however, Probst wasn’t sold to WMAQ but to CBS-owned WBBM-TV. Probst lasted only a year.
Heading Harry’s creative team are the duo of Justin and Eric Stengel, who were former writers and executive producers of The Late Show With David Letterman.
The 48-year old Connick has sold more than 28 million jazz albums, with ten of those hitting number one on Billboard’s Jazz Chart and seven of them placing in the top 20 on Billboard’s Album Chart. Connick’s movie credits include Independence Day, Hope Floats, P.S. I Love You, and Copycats. His television credits include a four-year stint on Will and Grace as Grace’s husband. Most recently, Connick joined the cast of American Idol as a judge.
A New Orleans native, Connick was instrumental in organizing a telethon for Hurricane Katrina relief in 2005, airing on September 2 of that year.
Harry is the first syndication project to launch for the 2016 season. Fox had been testing talkers featuring the husband-and-wife teams of Ice-T and CoCo and Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker in a few markets this summer, but their fates in light of the Harry purchase is now unknown. Neither show was tested in Chicago.