Former news talent Jane Pauley is out after just one season; nesting diva Martha Stewart was out but, now that she has done time in the slammer, she's back in.
First-run syndication is a cutthroat business.
In a shrinking syndication market, Jane Pauley's show will run only through the summer.
(Bebeto Matthews -- AP)
For those not in the know, "syndication" refers to programming that is not provided by a network to its TV stations but which is sold directly to stations. "First-run" syndication is programming that has been developed specifically for syndication, as opposed to "off-network" syndication, meaning shows that originally aired on a network -- like that "Seinfeld" rerun Washingtonians sit through each Tuesday night waiting for "American Idol" to start.
The first-run business has gotten particularly tough in the last decade. Since the '90s, when rules that had kept the networks out of the syndication business for more than two decades were allowed to "sunset," a handful of station-groups became the launching place for new first-run series, according to media buyer Magna Global, which recently issued a report on the sad state of syndication. These include ABC parent Disney, CBS and UPN parent Viacom, Fox parent Fox, NBC parent NBC Universal, and Tribune, which is partnered with Time Warner in the WB network.
This trend has resulted in more certainty about which first-run shows are going to make it to air, but also in fewer first-run shows developed each season. The evolution of the two newest networks, UPN and WB, also means that there are fewer independent TV stations hungry for first-run product with which to fill their broadcast day.
Last year's highest-profile first-run talk show launch was of NBC Universal's "The Jane Pauley Show." Pauley (who announced she was bipolar to coincide with the release of her book, "Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue," and the launch of her show in August, immediately after NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics) was supposed to do for NBC-owned TV stations what Oprah does for many ABC-owned stations nationwide: bridge daytime TV froth and early evening local news.
Many TV industry pundits thought "The Jane Pauley Show" would be a slam-dunk. But it launched with only so-so ratings and never did much better. Speculation revved up that Pauley's show was toast in December, when NBC Universal Television Distribution announced with much fanfare that it would revive Stewart's first-run career this fall (Stewart got out of the slammer in March). Last month NBCUTD confirmed that it would end production of Pauley's show this month, even though it had secured two-year commitments for it from TV stations. Original episodes will air through the summer.