Abbey Klaassen Reports from NATPE

SYNDICATORS ROLL OUT THEIR STARS AT NATPE

Martha Stewart, Rachael Ray and Megan Mullally Vie for Attention

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LAS VEGAS (AdAge.com) -- Martha Stewart patiently signed her newest book, “Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook,” for a line of admirers that stretched out onto the main exhibit floor. "Will & Grace" star Megan Mullally sat at a bistro table inside the NBC Universal area, sipping tea out of a thermos in hopes it would soothe a cold.
Photo: AP
'Will & Grace' star Megan Mullally was among the bevy of TV celebrities circulating at the show.
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“This is the first break I’ve had all day,” she said.

Food Network empress Rachael Ray was whisked in and out of the King World booth -- her real coming out as a syndication star was at a party in her honor last night. And up in the suites of the Hotel at Mandalay Bay, “Boston Legal” stars James Spader and William Shatner and “Family Guy” creator Seth McFarlane greeted buyers.

Encouraging signs for syndicators
Despite the buzz about new distribution platforms, syndication is still a several billion dollar business. And syndicators are encouraged this year by a crop of new and returning shows -- there are nine first-run syndication shows this year as opposed to last year’s three.

“It’s upbeat,” said Bo Argentino, the newly installed sales chief at NBC Universal Television Distribution, of the mood at the event.

“We’re very encouraged by the increase of number of attendees this year,” said Bob Cesa, exec VP-ad sales for Twentieth Television.

Twentieth Television is reporting strong interest in its Latin American telenovela “Desire,” which has been fast-tracked to a summer launch.("Desire" will broadcast in English here.) The show premiers June 19 and will be run Monday through Friday for 13 weeks, or 65 episodes. Each episode ends in a cliffhanger and an hour-long recap will air on weekends. Unlike traditional soap operas, each story line wraps at the end of its 13-week run. The first story arc is titled “Desire: Table for Three.”

Product integrations
Twentieth is also pitching product integrations in “Desire,” which is cleared in 65% of the market, to advertisers at NATPE. Twentieth executives said they’re looking for marketers in areas such as wireless and auto, among others. Twentieth is not only offering integrations into the show but also may extend integrations within the News Corp. family when it makes sense, said Bob Cesa, who heads up sales for Twentieth and DirecTV.

Meanwhile, Tribune Entertainment has cleared the weekend show “American Idol Rewind” in 65% of the country, including 24 of the top 25 markets. The program is a syndicated, streamlined version of “Idol” -- the show will combine the original performances and elimination shows into one hour-long version. Tribune, which also represents advertising sales for the show, is banking on “Idol” fans who want to relive the early moments of Kelly Clarkson and other winners’ careers.

Sony Pictures Television cleared its new syndicated talk show "The Greg Behrendt Show" in 80% of the country and in 23 of the top 25 markets and Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution cleared its new self-help talker “Dr. Keith Ablow” in 47 of the top 50 markets and has a to-date clearance of more than 90% of the country. And NBC Universal is in a good spot, with "Martha" cleared in 95% of the country and “The Megan Mullally Show” cleared in 70%.

Despite feeling under the weather, Ms. Mullally said, “I’ve always just been a cog in a machine, a hired actor who does my job -- but I’ve made the transition to cracking the whip very easily,” she quipped. “Seriously, I’m 47 and I’ve never had an office [until now].”

Interactive show
The actress, best known for playing Karen Walker on NBC’s “Will & Grace,” said her show will be “very interactive” and feature “on-going creativity-based challenges.” For example, she may ask viewers to create and submit two-minute documentaries about their hometowns and then have viewers vote for a favorite. “It’ll be much more of a community feel, it’ll have a reality TV feel,” she said.

Sales executives for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which sells media inventory in Ms. Stewart’s show, said inventory is sold out through spring but they were talking with advertisers about branded integration production deals that could occur anytime from spring through fall. Sheraton Kalouria, the newly installed president-television at MSLO, was on hand to meet with advertisers and distributors.

NATPE, he said, “feels more convivial” this year. “I’m sensing people came not only for the marketplace aspect but for the conference, too.”

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