MEDIA : Local TV Stations Jockey to Secure Syndicated Shows

KNSD-TV(Channel 39) program director Penny Martin called it a "preemptive" strike.

Earlier this year, rival KGTV(Channel 10) bought the rights to Maury Povich's new talk show, which won't air until Sept., 1991, before, she says, Channel 39 even had "an opportunity to be interested in it."

It was just one of several maneuvers and strategy adjustments that went into this year's edition of syndication poker, the annual bidding competition on the new crop of original syndicated programs.

"I think every year it seems to get more competitive," Martin said, which partially explains why Channel 10 bought a show which hasn't even gone into production yet.

Long before Channel 10 jumped on the Povich show, Channel 39 notched a victory of its own, taking away Povich's present employer, "A Current Affair," the tabloid news show which was a true ratings power for Channel 10. Channel 39 has already plunked it into the 7:30 p.m. weeknight time slot, leaving Channel 10 with a hole to fill at 7 p.m.

The network affiliates are forbidden by law from airing programming that originated on the networks from 7 to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. Independent stations gobble up programs like "The Cosby Show" and "Cheers" to run at this high-viewership time, while the network affiliates scramble for original programming.

The rule was meant to encourage local programming, but instead the network affiliates buy up game shows and tabloid programs, hoping to find a hit.

Sometimes, it is difficult to figure what will be a successful program, nevertheless why it is a hit. Channel 10 put "People's Court" into 7:30 p.m., after it had only mediocre success in an earlier time slot. Amazingly enough, it has proven to be a hit, winning in the time slot in the last Arbitron ratings book.

Channel 10 has replaced "A Current Affair" at 7 p.m. with "Challengers," a new game show. Channel 10 management hopes "Challengers" will pry away some of the game show audience currently held by Channel 39, which runs "Jeopardy" at 6:30 p.m. and "Wheel of Fortune" at 7 p.m. Channel 39 is locked into both programs through the fall of 1992.

"We think 'Wheel of Fortune' is a vulnerable show," Channel 10 program director Don Lundy said.

In the July Arbitron ratings book, "Wheel of Fortune" posted a 7 rating and 15 share, compared to a 8 rating and 19 share for "A Current Affair" on Channel 10.

Channel 10 let "A Current Affair" get away because of the high price, Lundy said, and a demand by the syndicators that any station buying the show must also pick up its new show, "Personalities."

Martin said reports that Channel 39 paid $1 million dollars for the rights to "A Current Affair" and "Personalities" are "not even close to accurate." Channel 39 will air "Personalities," a celebrity interview show, at 4 p.m., beginning Sept. 17. It will be followed by a "Preview," another new show, which will highlight upcoming events with an emphasis on Hollywood.

The performance of the two new shows will be a key for Channel 39, since they will serve as a lead-in to the 5 p.m. newscast.

"We're doing what we have to do in this business, which is take a risk with the new stuff," Martin said. "You never know what will be the next successful show."

KFMB-TV (Channel 8), as usual, was relatively inactive in the syndication market, but an industry source said the station has picked up Jesse Jackson's talk show for use during the day. Channel 8 management didn't return calls last week, but it is known they are planning to switch "P.M. Magazine" from 7 to 7:30 p.m., which many in the industry see as further evidence of the show's impending doom. Channel 8's contract for "P.M." reportedly expires at the end of the upcoming season, and co-hosts Dave Hood and Pat Brown are already busy working on the station's new afternoon talk show.

With the new local talk show in the works, Channel 8 let go of Joan Rivers' talk show, which was gobbled up by Channel 10. Joan is already in place at 3 p.m. in Channel 10's schedule, replacing "Magnum P.I." It competes against "Donahue" on Channel 39, and serves as a lead-in for Oprah Winfrey.

"People were not staying with action-adventure" in the afternoon, Lundy said. "They're going to talk."

Channel 10 also is hoping for big things from "The West," a new magazine-style show being produced in Sacramento. Channel 10 bought 52 episodes of the show, which it will run on Mondays at 9:30 p.m. after "Chargers Report" during the football season and on Saturdays at 5:30 p.m.

The Ken Cinema will do its own tribute to "Twin Peaks" tonight, presenting two films that clearly influenced David Lynch: Otto Preminger's "Laura" and Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo." Doughnuts and cups of "hot joe" will be served. . . .

Channel 8 is taking one more small step into the modern world. Beginning today, it will broadcast in stereo. . . .

Having written many evil and vile things about Bobby Estill during his short tenure as sports director of KNSD-TV (Channel 39), it seems only fair to note that he comes across as a capable and casual host for "Surfer Magazine," the locally produced show airing on ESPN. . . .

The cable industry is promoting itself by dubbing this "Local Cable Programming Week," attempting to spotlight all that wonderful local programming it produces for the community. Maybe next week can be dubbed "Informercial Week," and the cable systems can spotlight all the time they devote to mindless half-hour commercials for cleansers and real estate deals.

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