80% in zone for 'TMZ' bow

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The news is good for the upcoming entertainment newsmagazine "TMZ" as Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution has cleared the show in 80% of the U.S. for its fall launch in syndication.

WBDTD has inked multiyear deals on the first-run strip from Telepictures Prods. with stations from such groups as Sinclair, Tribune, Cox, McGraw-Hill, LIN, Clear Channel, Media General, Meredith, Cascade, ACME, Raycom and Landmark. The news follows last month's announcement at NATPE, where "TMZ" was officially unveiled, that the show had been sold to the Fox-owned television stations.

WBDTD president Ken Werner said that almost all the deals are two-year agreements, with "very strong" time periods in early fringe, prime access and late fringe. Many of the deals include double runs, and they all include an hourlong weekend edition, he added. The half-hour show is being sold on a cash-plus-barter basis.

Werner also emphasized that WBDTD has reached the 80% threshold after only five weeks in the marketplace.

"You could probably clear the country in this fashion with an all-barter show with no time-period restrictions and one-year deals, but that's not what we've got here," he said. "We had multiple offers in a lot of markets, targeting Fox stations, CW stations, MyNetworkTV stations, independent stations and traditional affiliates, who are looking to reposition their (local) news. We have signed up stations in all of those categories."

"TMZ," based on Telepictures/AOL entertainment news Web site TMZ.com, is designed to skew younger than other syndicated entertainment newsmagazines — targeting the 18-49 demo — and appeal to males and females. Werner said "TMZ," which is "really about celebrities as everyday people," will feature "a different visual style and way of telling stories," including fast-paced video segments, investigative reports, exclusive citizen video and recurring features.

He added that he's not worried that "TMZ" could end up airing opposite WBDTD's other syndicated entertainment newsmagazine, "Extra," in some markets.

"I don't think it will take any viewers from 'Extra' because that show tells different kinds of stories and has a different kind of appeal," he said. "There's room for the traditional guys and our show."

As for the show's host, Werner said the plan is to find a host or even multiple hosts who reflect "the attitude and concept" behind the show.

As previously announced, the deals with the stations also include multiplatform elements, including a "TMZ"-branded module that will reside on each station partner's home page and feature information on "TMZ" stories that are updated round-the-clock. Additionally, the local "TMZ" site will function as a 24/7 "news feed" for its affiliates.

"TMZ" will be produced in Los Angeles by Harvey Levin Productions Inc. and ParaMedia Inc. in association with Telepictures. TMZ.com managing editor Levin and ParaMedia founder Jim Paratore are executive producers.
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