NATPE Spotlights New Hopefuls In Revived Syndicated Talk Show Genre

This year’s NATPE conference in Miami, which runs today through Thursday, follows the release this month of Relatable, the first Ellen DeGeneres stand-up special since 2003.

In her Netflix special, DeGeneres expresses ambivalence about being better known as a daytime talk show host than a practitioner of stand-up, her initial claim to fame. Sure, the Warner Bros. show has reached its 16th season, she acknowledges, but she can’t honk her horn on LA roads or swear off dancing without risking public backlash. “The talk show is me, but I’m also playing a character of a talk-show host,” she mused to The New York Times.

Kelly Clarkson REX/Shutterstock

Despite such misgivings, the syndication business remains obsessed with finding the next Ellen, who of course followed in the very large footsteps of Oprah Winfrey. With this pursuit as one of the main storylines, NATPE’s 56th annual edition is shaping up as one of the livelier showcases the once-beleaguered syndication sector has seen in a while.

NBC is rolling out the red carpet in Miami for Kelly Clarkson, whose new show is due to launch this fall. The company announced this morning that it has been sold in more than 80% of the U.S. Also getting a high-profile sendoff is Tamron Hall, the former Today personality who was bumped to make way for Megyn Kelly. Hall’s new daytime talk show from Disney/ABC also hits the air in the fall and has cleared 70% of the country, the company announced. Sony also has a new entry featuring life coach and author Melanie “Mel” Robbins, which will debut on Tribune Broadcasting stations.

The Clarkson and Hall projects reflect the drive for synergy between broadcast syndication operations and the stations owned by the same company, an increasing priority in a consolidating landscape. It can sometimes be an uphill climb for companies without the same asset mix – one example sources have pointed to is a talk show developed for RuPaul by Warner Bros.’ Telepictures arm. It did not move forward after summer tests.

Viewership has by and large come back to earth after the astronomical Oprah years, especially with fragmentation hitting every daypart. Even so, a chart-topping show like Judge Judy can still routinely pull in 10 million viewers, a healthy number given that most of the audience is women 18 to 49 watching the show live. That profile makes it and other daytime shows appealing to advertisers.

There is an element of flux in the talk sector, however. Rachael Ray earned a renewal of her show recently despite ratings below those of Wendy Williams. And Williams herself last week made headlines by saying she would step away from her show for an extended period in order to focus on her “personal and physical well-being.” Debmar-Mercury plans to stick with reruns of Wendy, with guest hosts taking turns filling in beginning next week. (Lionsgate-owned Debmar, a staple presence in Miami, has a pipeline including shows featuring Jerry O’Connell and Will Packer.)

Meredith Vieira Pendzich/REX/Shutterstock

A hit talk show can net its backers tens of millions in profit a year, with most of the cost obligation being the host. There have been some high-profile casualties in recent years, however. Katie Couric, Meredith Vieira, Arsenio Hall and Harry Connick are all among the high-visibility hosts whose syndicated shows have fizzled since 2013, some leaving eight-figure losses in their wake.

Vieira is back at it in Miami, promoting 25 Words or Less, a game show that Fox has been cleared in 75% of the country.

Other notable shows getting a push at NATPE include Breakthrough With Dr. Steve Perry, from CBS, which has wrapped up a two-week test run on eight Fox stations. The company will be having conversations in Miami about the show, but is mainly focusing on finishing up renewals of top-rated shows like Dr. Phil, Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. Entertainment Tonight and Inside Edition are also in the queue.

MGM Worldwide Television Distribution will launch sales of two new syndicated strips, Personal Injury Court and The Drama. The half-hour Personal Injury Court features what MGM says are the highest cash payouts in the history of court shows. The Drama, meanwhile, is described as “a fun, fast-paced syndicated format” with “outspoken experts who use humor to help viewers solve problems.”

Beyond the marketplace and promotional action, NATPE will also feature several notable keynotes, including the first public appearance by George Cheeks and Paul Telegdy since they were picked in September to replace Bob Greenblatt as head of NBC Entertainment. Other speakers include Kathleen Finch, Chief Lifestyle Brands Officer of Discovery; Jack Abernethy, head of Fox’s station group; and Avi Nir, CEO of Keshet Media Group.

The 16th Annual Brandon Tartikoff Legacy Awards will also be handed out Wednesday to Byron Allen; Mara Brock Akil; Bob Greenblatt; Rita Moreno; Betty White; and Henry Winkler.

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