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Rejuvenation is the fragmentation solution: programmers need more shows with original ideas.

People often ask me what I think about the challenges syndicators and broadcasters face, particularly in daytime.

Yes, there's audience fragmentation, but if I wanted to be honest, I'd say much of the problem has to do with two other things. The first is the lack of original ideas being brought to the daypart. Why did we buy Harry Connick Jr.'s new show? Because that program is not one of the 100 or so we've seen trying to copy Oprah Winfrey. He's fresh and different and will bring energy to daytime. The second problem is that failed shows stay on much longer than they should. Lack of originality means it's not worth viewers' time to show up.

Keeping failed shows on means viewers are probably not coming back. I don't think syndicators and broadcasters have the luxury of three strikes anymore. I think we're coming to bat behind in the count. There better be a real reason for people to tune in and if there isn't, move on.

Think about it. Say a film opens at a movie theater and bombs. How long does it stay in the theater? Barely two more weeks, much less two years.

Among other life lessons ...

Coming to Market: Let's face it. It's nobody's goal in this business to lose a lot of money. Yet, if you saw some of the proposals we've seen, you'd almost think it was on somebody's wish list. Some of what we see is just nuts. The good news is it's happening less often. People are more in tune to today's economics. New business models are being built. In the end though, good shows make business models work, not vice versa.

I find the initial meetings introducing product fascinating. I always note the number of attendees. Smaller meetings generally dictate a clearer vision. The more people in the room, the murkier it becomes. We once took a meeting with a giant star, who showed up with one other person. Another time, we took a meeting with a talent that isn't a giant star who brought a battalion. In baseball terms, they expanded the 40-man roster. And everyone on the roster had to give two minutes on why their involvement matters. It made us wonder where the project came from. The agent's office? The personal assistant's powder room? Either way, it was uncomfortable and the project was not going to work.

Strip Strategy: I think the right way to launch strips is to do more of them. The wrong way is to do fewer. At last year's NATPE, people were talking about three new strips. This year there's one available. That's scary. NATPE has become two days of conversations on when you got there, followed by two days of updates on when you're leaving. Taking more swings at shows will change this. It's disheartening to hear about worthwhile projects being held up in negotiation. "I need bigger back end!" Remember Wayne Gretzky saying, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." Well, 100% of the shows that don't get on won't have front end, much less back end.

Testing: We've learned that audiences would rather have original programming in the summer. (Duh!) We've also learned that priests and politicians may not always make great talk show hosts, but that's another story. Last summer, we had two original series, "Boris & Nicole" and "Ice & Coco," that had test runs on some of our stations. While neither ended up going forward, both were commendable efforts that did well in their time periods against largely repeat competition. I'd take that every year. And I'm surprised more stations aren't doing tests.

Frank Cicha is senior VP of programming for Fox Television Stations.
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Title Annotation:EVENT: NATPE 2016
Author:Cicha, Frank
Publication:Variety
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 13, 2016
Words:618
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