UPDATED: Two decades after Arsenio Hall‘s successful turn as a late-night syndicated talk show host, he is at it again. The actor-comedian has signed a deal with CBS TV Distribution for a syndicated late-night talk strip for fall 2013. As expected, Tribune Broadcasting has come aboard to partner in the production of the show, which is set to launch on 17 Tribune stations — including in the three largest markets on WPIX-New York, at 11 PM; KTLA-Los Angeles, at 11 PM.; and WGN-Chicago, at 10 PM. The late-night show has already been sold in the top 10 markets and 17 of the top 20 markets, representing 52% of the country. While that doesn’t constitute an official green light, “there is a pretty good chance that we will be seeing the program in fall 2013,” said CTD president John Nogawski, who expects the show to get a first go for next fall by end of summer with the addition of more station clearances. This would be the first syndicated late-night talk show in about 15 years, since the short-lived The Keenen Ivory Wayans Show and Vibe, which launched in fall 1997.
The announcement comes on the heels of Hall’s return to the spotlight as the winner of the most recent season of Celebrity Apprentice. But Nogawski noted that, while Hall’s turn on the Donald Trump-hosted reality show “was a nice thing for the audience to remember him by,” it wasn’t a factor in CTD’s decision to do a late-night show with him. “I have a 20-year history with the guy,” said Nogawski, who oversaw Hall’s previous syndicated late-night talk show at CTD predecessor Paramount Domestic TV.
Nogawski decided to explore original programming for the 10 PM and 11 PM slots as CTD doesn’t have fresh sitcoms in the pipeline to sell for TV stations’ late-night blocks, and the studio has been sensing frustration on the part of some stations currently airing expensive sitcoms in late-night whose exclusivity is put in question as they run simultaneously on cable. Also making a first-run syndicated show appealing to stations is the fact that its commitment is shorter than the 8-10 years stations must sign for when they buy a sitcom. Next on the list for Nogawski was finding a personality with which to do a late-night show, and audience testing came back over and over with one name — Hall’s. Also working in Hall’s favor was research done by CTD showing that late-night shows are very popular among adults 35-54, which is exactly the demo group of Hall’s first late-night show as they were 18-34 at the time. By bringing Tribune on board, CTD was able to secure a deal with Hall who, immediately following his victory on Celebrity Apprentice, spoke publicly of his desire to return to television in a more permanent fashion. “It’s an amazing feeling to be going HOME to my old friends and colleagues and firing up our ‘Night Thing,’ ” Hall said today. “Let’s get busy … AGAIN!” Hall had been flirting with the idea of returning to the talk show circuit for about two years but wasn’t sure whether viewers wanted to see him on TV again. Well received stints as guest host on Piers Morgan Tonight and contestant on Celebrity Apprentice over the past three months gave him the confidence to jump back. Hall had had exploratory conversations with Tribune a year ago, which he revisited, and took a meeting with CTD brass who stepped up in the room. The deal-making after that happened quickly. The new show, which is expected to be a bigger, contemporary version of his 1990s talker, will be produced by CBS Television Distribution, in association with Arsenio Hall Communications and Octagon Entertainment Prods. Hall will executive produce with John Ferriter.
Hall’s syndicated late-night Arsenio Hall Show ran from 1989-1994. While several personalities and syndicators flirted with the idea of a syndicated late-night talk show during the past two decades — most recently Conan O’Brien post-The Tonight Show — nobody had gone so far as CTD with Hall.