Media Notepad: NATPE news and more

Renewals, renewals, and more renewals; Laff changes stations in Chicago; Spike TV is finally spiked

While the fate of several syndicated shows remains unsolved, there were a few of renewals announced at the NATPE gathering in Miami: Twentieth Television renewed Page Six TV for a second season; and Disney-ABC renewed Pickler & Ben for a second season. The latter has yet to air in Chicago, but a local station picking it up may be within reach as officials claim the series has been picked up “in 70 percent of the country.”

The two shows join other syndicated shows green-lighted for another season includes NBCUniversal’s Dateline; Entertainment Studios’ Funny You Should Ask (to 2021); and Warner Bros. The Real (to 2020). Other renewals for next season include veteran shows Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Right This Minute.

On Friday, NBCUniversal renewed Steve for another season, despite being down 10 percent in the ratings from last year before the move to L.A. and increased production costs.

Meanwhile, B&C is reporting veteran series CrimeWatch Daily and The Doctors are being cut after this season. CrimeWatch was not renewed by Tribune or Sinclair despite respectable ratings, but is being shopped to other outlets.

In other news, NBCUniversal announced it has cleared off-network episodes of Chicago P.D. in 75 percent of the country with Sinclair, Weigel, Hearst, and other groups signing on. Fox Television Stations became the first group to clear the off-network strip, available for a September 2018 start.

Outside of those nuggets, there wasn’t much news coming out of NATPE regarding new shows – or anything, as the reduced coverage (compared to other years) on this blog attests. As you know, NATPE long ago shifted its focus from syndicated programming to digital and international buyers. But even just a few years ago, Mark Cuban, Russell Simmons, and other notable names held panels at the Miami gathering. This year’s show was a disappointment, due to a clear lack of star power – unless you count Soledad O’Brien making an appearance.

Tegna and Sony Pictures Television announced last week a new partnership to distribute shows developed and produced at the station group in the rest of the United States, Canada, and internationally. The deal includes all three Tegna shows currently on the air: Daily Blast Live, Sister Circle, and Sing Like A Star.

Of the three, only Sister Circle is available linerally in the Chicago area through national cable exposure on TV One as Tegna does not own any stations in Chicago, New York, or Los Angeles. Daily Blast Live also airs live on Facebook and YouTube.

Tegna senior vice president for programming Robert Sullivan said in a press release: “This is a one-of-a-kind agreement, where Tegna and Sony Pictures Television each bring distinct strengths to the new partnership. With Daily Blast Live and other programs in our creative pipeline, together with Sony’s expertise in the three key areas of sales, development and distribution, we look forward to expanding our list of available content for Tegna stations and beyond.”

SPT president of U.S. distribution John Weiser: “Tegna is a first-class broadcasting company with forward-thinking, digital and programming initiatives. We are proud to have been selected as their partner and to represent Tegna’s shows in the marketplace.”

The move is a smart one on Sony’s part as it lacks first-run programming in the marketplace with the only show they produce and distribute for syndication currently is Dr. Oz. Sony has been slow to develop new shows in the last few years. The deal comes as Sony Pictures Entertainment and CEO Tony Vinciquerra spoke at a NATPE panel on Wednesday, calling for more scale. “If we don’t grow, we will be somebody’s purchase”, he noted.

So long Spike, hello Paramount Network: last week saw Viacom change the name of Spike to Paramount, ending a thirteen-year run. Once known as a cable network “targeted to men”, Spike broadened its appeal over the years, and in order to compete with FX and AMC – home to high-quality scripted series, Viacom is hoping to attract advertisers’ thirst for such fare with the premiere of limited-series Waco on January 24 and a regular-series adaption of the movie Heathers.

The decision to re-brand Spike was made as Viacom CEO Bob Bakish wanted to revolve the company around six major brands: BET, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, MTV, Nick Jr. and Paramount Pictures, whose studio the network is named after. Viacom had long wanted a “flagship channel”, similar to what other media companies have. As part of the promotion for the channel, Spike’s Twitter account went rogue in the days leading up to the January 18th change (“My favorite number is 329 because it’s the number of times Cops is on every night.”) Of course, many programs airing on Spike carried over to the new Paramount Network including Cops, and reruns of Two And a Half Men and Friends, plus Lip Sync Battle.

The “Paramount” name on a network isn’t new – there was a “Paramount Television Network”, a short-lived ad-hoc network from 1948 to 1956; a proposed (and later dropped) “Paramount Television Service” in 1978, and of course, the United Paramount Network, or UPN, from 1995 to 2006. After CBS and Viacom split in 2005, UPN and all the broadcast television properties (including the Paramount Television library) shifted to the CBS side while Viacom kept Paramount Pictures and Viacom’s cable networks, including Spike.

Spike of course had its roots in The Nashville Network (TNN), starting operations in 1983 from Nashville as a country music/lifestyle channel. After a shift to general entertainment fare, “Nashville” became “National”, and then rebranded Spike in 2005. Eleven countries and one region has the “Paramount” name as a channel, including Brazil, France, Latin America, Poland, Spain, and Sweden. Unlike the Paramount Network in the U.S., the international channels carries only films from the Paramount library.

For those who rely on an over-the-air antenna to watch your shows, there was a recent change to the lineup: Scripps’ diginet Laff recently shifted channels in the Chicago area to Univision’s WGBO-TV on 66.2, replacing Sony’s GetTV, who shifted to 66.3. Grit, another Scripps diginet, moved to 66.5 while The Justice Channel stays put at 66.4.

The move was necessary after ABC-owned WLS-TV dropped the channel after it entered into a channel-sharing agreement with Univision’s WXFT last December 17. As a result, the 7.3 position Laff occupied went dark. WLS however, still has the LiveWell Network (featuring mostly reruns from the era when the channel was active) on 7.2.

Made as an ABC O&O deal in 2015, no other ABC-owned stations have plans to drop Laff.

Scripps acquired Katz Communications last year, the parent company behind Laff and Grit. Katz also owns diginets Bounce (targeted to African-Americans) and Escape.

Laff airs sitcoms, mostly from the late 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s. Shows featured on the channel include the original version of Roseanne, Empty Nest, Cybill, The Drew Carey Show, and That 70s Show. Laff also features comedy movies.