Syndicators buoyed by new, returning shows

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[Las Vegas] 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. 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 the night before. "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.

"This is the first break I've had all day," she said. Ms. Mullally was busy promoting her new talk show at the annual National Association of Television Program Executives conference.

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.

NATPE officials were surely wishing the news that UPN and WB would merge to create The CW had broken a few weeks earlier, which would have driven up conference attendance. Despite that, attendance was still up between 5% and 10%, NATPE CEO Rick Feldman estimated.

More media agencies

An informal poll of media agencies indicated that they were better represented at the show than in recent years and studio executives reported more meetings with marketers. Some surmised more buyers came because the Syndicated Network Television Association's annual pre-upfront meeting was canceled in favor of individual client meetings; other suggested the interest stemmed from the additional brand integration opportunities thanks to the increase in first run syndicated fare.

Twentieth Television reported strong interest in its telenovela "Desire," which has been fast-tracked to a summer launch. The show, which translates Latin American soap operas into English, premieres June 19 and will be stripped Monday through Friday for 13 weeks, or 65 episodes.

Tribune Entertainment has cleared 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."

Sony Pictures Television cleared its 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. NBC Universal is in a good spot, with "Martha" which cleared in 95% of the country; "The Megan Mullally Show" cleared in 70%.

On the Web

Read more on NATPE:

* The mood on the floor: AdAge.com QwikFIND aar34c

* Media buyers’ views: AdAge.com QwikFIND aar34p

* How to get digital: AdAge.com QwikFIND aar34d

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