When Telepictures went shopping for a talk show, Mr. Paratore knew Ms. O'Donnell was the right person for the job. Her background in comedy, Broadway and movies attracted Mr. Paratore and his team to Ms. O'Donnell, who already had firm ideas about what was missing from the daytime talk arena.
"The thing we liked from the beginning was that it was different from anything on TV," Mr. Paratore says, referring to what he called a "glut" of single-issue talk shows.
Mr. Paratore, 44, says the most significant marketing moves were the decision to air the show live and to launch in June, to avoid fall programming clutter.
Focus groups and national phone surveys were held to clear up areas where the show could improve.
The marketing decisions were right on target.
According to Nielsen ratings, the show is third among all talk shows, with a 4.2 season-t0-date rating as of June 10. The show just received a 1998 daytime Emmy Award for best talk show; and along with Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O'Donnell was honored as best talk-show host.
The show provided advertiser tie-in opportunities, including live chats with Rosie on America Online and a Philips Magnavox WebTV giveaway to audience members.
Mr. Paratore and other executives at Telepictures Productions are now setting their sights on expanding marketing opportunities for the show in the coming year, with an eye toward creating stronger relationships with stations carrying the show.
"Having the absolute product at the absolute right time is something that doesn't happen often," Mr. Paratore says. "And when it becomes a big hit overnight, it's even better."