'Crosswords' at a crossroads

Program Partners puts game show on indefinite hiatus

Independent syndicator Program Partners has put "Merv Griffin's Crosswords" on indefinite hiatus, but the company is looking to keep the show on the air with a new programming initiative for TV stations dubbed "DaytimePlus."

"Crosswords" debuted in September but hasn't generated much ratings heat, and production costs spurred the syndicator -- having produced 225 episodes, some of which have yet to air -- to make the decision to stop shooting new episodes at least through the fourth quarter.

"We haven't made a determination beyond that," company co-founder Josh Raphaelson said.

A mix of new and repeat episodes of "Crosswords" will be available through "DaytimePlus," which also includes two shows from Canada: the TV-trivia game show "Inside the Box" and the makeover series "Style by Jury." Raphaelson said both perform well among 25- to 54-year-olds, and there are more than 130 episodes of each in the can. Additional series will be available starting in fall 2009.

Program Partners co-founder Ritch Colbert said the initiative, launching in the fall, is intended to help boost TV stations' ad sales in a sluggish economy, pointing out that it includes a barter split -- 4 1/2-minute local and 2 1/2-minute national -- that favors the stations. Each series also will have broadband and digital television components to provide for cross-platform sales tools for stations.

"The first thing out of the mouths of every TV station we visit is how bad business is in daytime," he said. "We crafted this idea to offer something that helps meet that challenge."
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