Who said syndication was boring? In one day this week, the usually sleepy industry offered more action that a Michael Bay movie. Wednesday started off with several shows: newbies Jeff Probst, from CBS TV Distribution, Twentieth’s Ricki Lake, Warner Bros’ Bethenny Frankel as well as Warner Bros’ rookie Anderson, vying for a slot on the NBC stations. It ended with Jeff Probst getting the NBC stations, Anderson being renewed on the Fox stations and Ricki Lake landing a key Tribune station that secures its launch. “I don’t remember it being so wild,” one veteran syndication executive said about the Wednesday flurry of activity. “It was like the Wild Wild West — everyone had their guns out and we were shooting at each other.”
After a marathon of presentations by all hopefuls, including the NBC-produced Jenny McCarthy talk-show pilot, it came down to Jeff Probst and Ricki Lake for the spot on the NBC stations. Things were so close, I hear the winner was picked by a vote. The moment the decision to go with Jeff Probst was made yesterday, “the scurrying started, and the other dominoes started to fall,” according to an industry insider. Ricki Lake needed to secure a station in the top TV market, New York City, to keep its hopes of a nationwide launch alive. Meanwhile, Tribune’s New York station WPIX had trouble integrating Anderson Cooper’s new talk show into its lineup of conflict talkers: NBCU’s Maury, Jerry Springer and Steve Wilkos, and Tribune’s own Bill Cunningham. So WPIX went for Ricki Lake, Anderson moved to Fox’s New York station, and the Fox station group quickly renewed the show for a second season.
By the end of the day, the three main contenders for the open slot on the NBC stations all saw their future secured for next season. Anderson‘s renewal was announced on the same day, Jeff Probst’s deal with the NBC stations was made official a day later, and Twentieth is yet to announced the clearances for Ricki Lake, which are expected to include a hodge-podge mix of Tribune and Fox stations, possibly including the Tribune outlets in New York, Seattle and Hartford and Fox’s stations in Los Angeles and Chicago. The three join previously cleared 2012 newcomers Katie and Steve Harvey. After the dust settled on Wednesday night, the participants that had been fiercely fighting against each other started sending each other congratulatory emails. And syndication went back to being boring again.