2019-20 syndication development season gains steam

Jerry Springer in his new courtroom series, “Judge Jerry”.

Five shows now vying for time slots as new game show joins pack

In a marked reversal from the last few selling seasons, syndicators are amping up their pitches to stations as a wealth of new product is about to flood the marketplace two months before NATPE begins.

The latest entry came from Twentieth Television, who announced a deal with sister station group Fox Television Stations for new game show 25 Words Or Less, hosted by Meredith Vieira and comes from a collaboration of six people, including former Friends star Lisa Kudrow. The series was tested in several markets over the summer including New York and Los Angeles.

Fox owns WFLD-TV and CW affiliate WPWR-TV here, the latter where 25 Words would likely be paired up with Family Feud beginning next September. As typical with most syndicated short-term “test” product, Chicago was not included (another show Fox is testing in January for a two-week run also does not include Chicago.)  Two such “test product” shows that did air in Chicago last year (iWitness and Punchline) did not move forward.

Fox’s owned-stations are gearing up for life without a studio as owner 21st Century Fox is selling most of 20th Century Fox to The Walt Disney Company, with the Fox O&Os, Fox News, Fox Broadcasting, and Fox Sports remaining with 21st. Twentieth’s syndication arm is assumingly part of the sale, but it is unclear if it would be operated separately from Disney’s syndication division under the Twentieth name or combined under one banner.

For Vieira, it is her first project since the cancellation of her daytime talk show two years ago. Vieira hosted the first eleven seasons of the syndicated version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, now assumed by Chris Harrison and airs weeknights at 1:35 a.m. over ABC-owned WLS-TV (the show was also on WCIU’s schedule until recently.) Currently, there are only five game shows in first-run syndication, with Entertainment Studios’ Funny You Should Ask the last time a game show debuted.

The announcement comes on the same day NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution officially announced it was going forward with Judge Jerry as the series was sold in 75 percent of the country, including many of the stations who carried his former daytime talk show. Springer would be presiding over real-life cases interspersed with his signature “closing thoughts”. The show is being sold as an hour-long weekday strip and is being taped in Stamford, Conn. where his talk show spent its final nine seasons.

“For the first time in my life, I’m going to become honorable” said Springer in a statement, who went to law school at Northwestern. “My career is coming full circle and I finally get to put my law degree to use after all these years.”

News of the new program first broke in the New York Post weeks ago, and Robert Feder reported former Springer affiliate WCIU acquired Judge Jerry for next fall. Michael Schneider of Indiewire tweeted Tribune’s KTLA picked up the show in Los Angeles, which likely means sister station WPIX in New York also picked up the show given Tribune is mentioned as one of the station groups. Both were also former Springer affiliates.

This brings the number of new shows for syndication next fall to five. Previously, new talk shows featuring Kelly Clarkson, Tamron Hall, and Mel Robbins were given green lights for production. It will be interesting to see what “bubble” syndicated shows hang around, including Steve with Steve Harvey. But with the talk show continuing to do well – especially in his former hometown of Chicago where NBC’s WMAQ averaged a  1.4 household rating/5 share in a recent week at 2 p.m. – up 17 percent from a year ago, you wonder if the NBC-owned station group should reconsider their plans to drop the show. After all, does anyone actually watch Access Live?


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