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Warner, NBC cut TV deals

Times Staff Writer

In the increasingly difficult business of syndicated television, Warner Bros. on Thursday proved that TV stations still have an appetite for original programming.

Warner Bros. and NBC Universal said they had finalized three deals, including one that foreshadows the launch of a daytime talk show next year. The show, which will feature comedienne Bonnie Hunt, will run on TV stations owned by NBC Universal.

NBC Universal, the entertainment arm of General Electric Co., also renewed for its TV stations two of its most successful syndicated shows: the popular “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and “Extra!,” the long-running evening celebrity news magazine. Both are produced by Warner Bros., a division of Time Warner Inc.

The agreements guarantee that DeGeneres will run on NBC through 2011 and that “Extra” will be on the air at least through 2012. NBC turned to one of its most reliable program suppliers, Warner Bros., after its production unit failed in recent years to produce its own successful daytime talk show. It had two costly misfires with the “Megan Mullally Show,” featuring the Emmy-winning co-star from “Will & Grace,” and “The Jane Pauley Show,” with the former NBC News journalist.

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NBC’s TV station group also has struggled with its daytime program “In the Loop with iVillage,” a spinoff of the company’s iVillage women’s website.

Both NBC and Warner Bros. are betting that Hunt’s quirky charm and “quintessential everywoman” qualities will make her a hit in daytime. Hunt played supporting roles in “Jerry Maguire” with Tom Cruise and “Cheaper By the Dozen” with Steve Martin. She has also written and produced prime-time sitcoms, most recently “Life with Bonnie” on ABC.

Warner Bros. would not divulge financial terms of the deal.

But Ken Werner, president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, said there was still money to be made in TV’s bread-and-butter business -- syndication deals with TV stations. Much of the industry is focused on how to make shows work on the Internet.

“Broadcasters have realized that they must have distinctive and quality first-run programming. That’s what sets them apart from their competition,” said Werner. “And we want to be a supplier to everyone.”

meg.james@latimes.com


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