Syndi Forecast: Sunny, with Scattered New Shows and Old Favorites

by Cathy Corcoran


Here at the Fontainebleau, TV execs are ensconced in their suites and settling into their poolside cabanas, ready to make deals as NATPE 2018 opens in Miami Beach. The forecast calls for sunny skies and new shows, among them, social media phenom Caught in Providence from Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury, a new syndi offering of 11 seasons of The Carol Burnett Show from CBS Television Distribution, as well as returning favorites Page Six, Top 30 and Dish Nation from Twentieth Television, Matter of Fact from Sony Pictures Television, and others.


CBS Television Distribution has just announced it will be offering digital multicast rights for all 11 seasons of The Carol Burnett Show. The agreement, which comes as the legendary show celebrates its 50th anniversary, provides CTD with rights to over 276 hours of the classic comedy showcase—many episodes of which have never been seen beyond their original broadcast.


“Carol Burnett is one of the very finest comedic performers in the history of television,” said Paul Franklin, president of CTD. “Acquiring digital rights to her library allows us to not only ensure that the show’s legacy is protected, but that her genius is also shared with audiences for years to come.”


When the agreement was announced, Burnett said, “I’m thrilled to be back home at CBS, and I’m so happy that future generations will be able to see and enjoy the fun we had in those 11 wonderful years.” CBS is also offering Blue Bloods, CSI Miami, Dr. Phil, The Doctors, Entertainment Tonight, Hot Bench, Inside Edition, Judge Judy and the perennial hits Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.


Tops among new shows debuting at NATPE, is Lionsgate’s Debar-Mercury's Caught in Providence, which will air on FOX Television Stations beginning in fall 2018. The unique, co-produced first-run series will offer fresh episodes of real-life court cases directly from the Providence, RI, courtroom of social media phenomenon, Judge Frank Caprio.


The show is being co-produced by Caprio’s brother Joseph, who has been videotaping the judge’s court sessions for more than 20 years. With more than 1 billion hits on YouTube, Caught in Providence has become a social media sensation with a built-in audience. In addition, Debmar-Mercury produces and distributes The Wendy Williams Show; has U.S. distribution rights to Fremantle Media North America’s Family Feud with Steve Harvey; distributes Tyler Perry sitcoms House of Payne and spinoff Meet the Browns, and sitcom Anger Management (starring Charlie Sheen). It also holds U.S. TV distribution rights to South Park. 


Ira Bernstein, Co-President of Debmar-Mercury said, “When we first got the call about Caught in Providence, we told them we weren’t buying any court shows.  But we took a look at it and realized that there are plenty of court shows out there, but this one is different. Judge Caprio is a man who brings compassion and humor into his courtroom.”


Called the voice of reason in a field of court shows where, all too often, the vibe is one of nastiness, Caprio hears only petty crimes and misdemeanors in his courtroom, so viewers won’t see someone accused of grand theft or a murder get off lightly.  


Bernstein said that one case, which already has more than 600,000 episode views on YouTube, involves a mother who was charged with running a red light. Judge Caprio invited the dependent’s six-year-old daughter to the bench to watch video of the alleged violation and asked the little girl to comment.

“My mom was frightened of the man there,” the little girl said. The video clearly shows a man standing at the intersection.

“Did your mom think he was going to ask her to roll the window down and give him money?”

“Yes,” the girl replied.

After some deliberation, Caprio said, “Okay, based on the impassioned plea, I’m going to dismiss the case.” That’s when laughter and applause erupted in the courtroom.


“We weren’t very enthused about another court show,” said Stacey Schulman, executive VP Strategy & Analytics at Katz Media Group, “but we watched a couple of episodes of Caught in Providence and Judge Caprio really stood out for us. The show went right to the top of our list.”


Schulman will be visiting suites and cabanas at NATPE with an eye to picking up on promising products for her Katz TV. With more than 100 broadcast groups, and nearly 800 TV stations and their digital platform extensions, the company serves over 85 percent of the country, covering 196 of the 210 markets. “At this point, a lot of cards are being held close to the vest,” Schulman said. “We haven’t heard about a lot of deals yet. At the moment, renewals are where the action is.”  


Ken Lawson, senior VP of broadcast sales at Twentieth Television, agrees. “We couldn’t be more excited about the second season of Page Six,” he said. The new show debuted four months ago to good ratings and has sparked viewer interest as blockbuster stories of sexual abuse involving Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and other big names in entertainment have dominated the news cycle.


Produced in conjunction with the New York Post, which has aired its iconic Page Six column for years, the show features John Fugelsang, Mario Cantone, Bevy Smith, Elizabeth Wagmeister, and Carlos Greer. New York Post Page Six editor Emily Smith and deputy editor Ian Mohr also contribute, and all dish about entertainment, celebrities, larger-than-life real estate moguls and super-wealthy philanthropists. They also invite viewers to weigh in on daily topics via social media. “Our hosts aren’t just talking heads,” Lawson said. “They’re real reporters with real access to newsmakers. They don’t just tell you there was a big party last night. They were actually at the party.”

Lawson said he was fortunate to have Fox TV stations as partners. “They’ve given us a huge reach—97 percent of the country can watch Page 6—and provided quality time periods and helped us to grow our audience.” The show airs in access time in both New York and L.A., and early fringe in many other markets, often paired with Twentieth’s Top 30, a show that delivers 30 news stories in 30 minutes. Also popular is their Dish Nation that features entertainment news, celebrity gossip, and other tidbits from pop culture.


“As far as off-network, we’re clearly the leader,” Lawson said, “with Modern Family, Last Man Standing, How I met your Mother, and animated shows Family Guy, I am Dad and King of the Hill.”


Twentieth isn’t the only company that’s bullish this January. “We’re very optimistic about the distribution marketplace,” said John Weiser, President of Distribution for Sony Pictures Television, who said that Sony would soon announce a new syndicated strip show to be unveiled at NATPE. details to come.

Sony is also promoting Matter of Fact, a 30-minute weekend news show with award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien. Produced at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. by Hearst Television in partnership with O’Brien’s production studio, Starfish Media Group, the program is now available to more than 80 percent of U.S. TV households, including all top 20 TV markets. (O’Brien will be the featured speaker in Wednesday morning’s NATPE keynote address along with Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra.)


Another Sony offering is Doctor Oz, hosted since 2009 by cardiothoracic surgeon and Columbia University professor Mehmet Cengiz Öz, MD, who came to general prominence with appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live and other TV programs. Weiser says that this season, the show, which focuses on medical issues and personal health, is growing more than any other talk show on TV. “We’ve added several premium advertisers this season and more are coming in. We love being in the Dr. Oz business.”


Among Sony’s other shows for cable, broadcast, syndication and digital distribution are The Good Doctor, S.W.A.T., The Blacklist, The Goldbergs, Shark Tank, Outlander, Better Call Saul, Kevin Can Wait, One Day at a Time, $100,000 Pyramid, The Gong Show, The Crown and Timeless.


Over at NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution, first-run broadcast syndicated programming offerings include Steve Harvey, Access Hollywood, The Jerry Springer Show, The Steve Wilkos Show, Trisha Goddard and the weekend syndicated series On the Money. Current off-network programming includes 30 Rock, House, Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Monk and The Office.


Warner Bros. has also announced that their talk show The Real has been renewed by Fox Television stations for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons on all of their owned and operated television stations in 17 markets.


This season, The Real went live, allowing for spontaneous viewer participation across social media platforms. The show garnered more than 12 million social actions (likes, comments, shares on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram) last season and on is on pace to eclipse that number midway through this season.  


Ken Werner, President of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, said,  “'Since the 2010-11 season, twenty-three different talk shows have launched and The Real and Steve Harvey are the only two series to last four or more seasons.” Other shows on offer from Warner Bros. include Ellen, TMZ, TMZ Live, Extra, Judge Mathis, Crime Watch Daily and The People’s Court, and others.


First run offerings from Disney/ABC Home Entertainment & TV Distribution include Live with Kelly and Ryan, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Right This Minute.  Their off-network offerings include Black-ish, Wipeout, and Castle.


Katz’s Stacey Schulman said that these syndicators’ enthusiasm isn’t misplaced.

“We’ve gone through a five or six-year period where some people said the syndication market was dead. At this point, I wouldn’t say that the pendulum has swung back completely, but we have several major advertisers who are coming back to broadcast. They found out they can spend a lot of money in the target-driven digital space without actually making money in return. When you look at CPMs, you realize you can’t really launch a product without broad reach media.”


Lionsgate-owned Debar-Mercury’s Bernstein said, “We’re entering into an interesting 18- to 24-month period where some shows will be going away and there’ll be opportunities to replace them. The station business is a great thing and the one thing everyone wants is a hit show that’s a money maker.” 


Bernstein added that his Caught in Providence is a barter show (as most court shows are) and that Debar-Mercury is willing to let it work its way up. “We’re producing it at a good price and we can afford to sell it that way,” he said. “If it takes off, it’ll make everyone a lot of money. That’s what the syndi business is all about.”