Syndication 2016: Yawn.


Outside of Harry Connick Jr., there’s practically nothing on the market

Looking for something new for the fall of 2016 in syndication? Good luck.

That’s the consensus as the 2016 market has come to a crawl. Outside of NBCUniversal, who is marketing Harry Connick Jr.’s show this fall and Entertainment Studios pushing a new one-hour panel talk show, syndicators are skipping the fall season for the most part, instead reinvesting in the current product they have.

In fact, CBS Television Distribution is out renewing its lineup of first-run shows – even low-rated, past-their-prime entries such as Rachael Ray and The Doctors, as reported by Broadcasting & Cable last week. The former has been downgraded in a few markets, including Chicago, where it airs at 1:40 a.m. and could stay there indefinitely. The move to renew even the lowest-rated of shows is certainly cheaper than launching a new program.

And for the first-time in memory, no major off-network sitcoms are being offered as traditional comedies have mostly vanished from network schedules. Believe it or not, there’s more excitement over Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett reruns returning to television (via Antenna TV and Decades, respectively) than anything being offered in syndication.

And NATPE, a place where syndicators have traditionally sold TV shows to stations, has shifted its focus to digital as the annual convention gets underway this week in Miami.

Thus renewals of existing product are the rule. On Tuesday, Debmar-Mercury has renewed Celebrity Name Game for a third season on Tribune and Sinclair stations, and its Wendy Williams Show has been renewed through 2020 in 50% of the country, including the Fox station group.

Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan are seen during the production of "Live! with Kelly and Michael" on October 1, 2013 in New York. Photo: David E. Steele/Disney ABC
Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan are seen during the production of “Live! with Kelly and Michael” on October 1, 2013 in New York. “Live” is one of four talk shows re-upped through 2020. Photo: David E. Steele/Disney ABC

Also Tuesday, Disney-ABC Domestic Television renewed Live with Kelly and Michael through 2020 on all the ABC-owned stations. Even Who Wants to Be A Millionaire, whose ratings have declined for years amid time period downgrades and a constant revolving door of hosts, was picked up for another season through 2017.

Meanwhile, 2015-16’s three freshman shows –FABLife, CrimeWatch Daily, and Crazy Talk – are all expected back next season, despite each failing to achieve north of an one rating (Editor’s Note: Disney-ABC canceled “FABLife” Tuesday evening.)

These moves comes as an availability of time slots continue to vanish – not only for renewal of existing product, but also for expansion of news and other local programming. Adding news is actually less expensive than buying a syndicated program, first-run or off-network: the station keeps all ad time and doesn’t have to share it with a syndicator; and a staff is already in place to produce it.

Recently, several NBC-owned stations made a plan to eliminate an hour of entertainment programming and replacing it with local news later this year. And KTVI in St. Louis is adding an 11 p.m. newscast (you read that correctly – 11 p.m., not 11 a.m. – in the Central Time Zone.)

Marketplace changes are also affecting the development of new programming. Viewers have migrated to streaming platforms for entertainment product, decimating the off-network business for broadcasters and cable networks. Netflix reportedly invested over $6 billion in original product, and has about as many original shows as the syndication business itself. And this while several cable networks continue to take expensive write-downs on off-network product.

More time slots are available in the future – but the industry has said this before only to see the same shows renewed over and over again, shutting out any new product forthcoming. Meanwhile, programmers have become lazy – for instance, Fox’s WFLD locally runs TMZ and Dish Nation numerous times a day (as their annoying promos pointed out multiple times during a recent NFC Playoff Game.)

So far, any new programming initiatives have been limited at best. Warner Bros. and TMZ have begun testing South Of Wilshire, a new low-budget game show on several Fox O&Os, including a 5:30 p.m. slot on My50. And Tegna (the former Gannett station group) is taking over sales of T.D. Jakes’ talk show, which was tested in a few markets and is being rolled out for syndication in 2016 – even without the three largest markets of New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, where Tegna doesn’t own stations.

So is the syndication business in daytime ever going to return to its glory days? You have to give viewers a reason to watch. Winning viewers back by renewing The Doctors and The Insider and running TMZ sixteen times a day won’t do the job.

Updated at 11:26 p.m. on 2016-01-19.

Charlie Brown: (C) Peanuts Worldwide, Inc. 


1 thought on “Syndication 2016: Yawn.

    • You said it best, Terrence…station programmers have been lazy, but it’s been a trend pretty much over the last decade-plus. It’s really become commonplace to see a station double-running (or in some cases, triple or quadruple-running) episodes of the same series everyday. Even the classic TV diginets, like Me-TV and Antenna TV, which are supposed to be more-or-less throwbacks to old-school independent stations that you and I grew up watching, are even guilty at times running certain shows into the ground.

      Old-school independents always had variety within their schedules (often with great shows), with a little something for everyone–kid shows, daytime/nighttime talk, sports, sitcoms, movies, and so on. I’ve reached a point to where I don’t watch much local TV like I used to…I watch Antenna, Me, Buzzr, Cozi, and Decades more often than I do with my local network stations (and I’m in Los Angeles).

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