NBC Uni seals syndie 'Deal'

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NBC Universal has confirmed that "Deal or No Deal" is heading into syndication in fall 2008.

It had been widely speculated for about a year that NBC Universal was bringing a half-hour version of NBC and producer Endemol USA's hit game show to syndication, but the company never confirmed that anything was in the works.

The distributor now has officially announced that it has cleared the game show as a strip on a majority of the NBC owned-and-operated stations — including WNBC New York, KNBC Los Angeles, WMAQ Chicago, WCAU Philadelphia and KNTV San Francisco — as well as stations owned by CBS, Allbritton, Scripps and Sinclair.

It also confirmed that Howie Mandel will host the syndicated series. He also will continue to host NBC's primetime version.

"Deal" is being sold as a purely as a strip — with no weekend runs — on a cash-plus-barter basis, with 51/2 minutes of commercial time allotted to the stations and 11/2 reserved for the distributor. It has been cleared in afternoon and early evening slots so far.

"We went out with it and got a terrific response from the stations," said Barry Wallach, president of NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution.

Both versions have the same production team and will tape from the same set in Culver City. As for the format, Wallach said that the syndicated version will be pretty much the same as the primetime edition — including the Banker, models and contestants picking from among sealed briefcases holding varying dollar amounts in an attempt to win a cash prize.

There will be only minor tweaks for syndication. Contestants will be able to win as much as $250,000, compared with the $1 million offered in primetime, and each episode will be self-contained. They also will be faster-paced, NBC Universal said.

In addition, potential contestants will stand onstage with the models so Mandel can banter with them before they are selected to have their go at picking from among the briefcases. Wallach said that's a common trait among the various international editions of the show and allows viewers to get to know the contestants better.

"Deal" originated in Holland in 2002 and has since aired in more than 80 countries. The show became a hit in the U.S. after debuting on NBC in December 2005 as a strip. It was the network's most-watched program of the 2006-07 season, averaging 15 million viewers an episode.

Asked whether there were concerns about overexposing the show, Wallach said: "One of the reasons we waited was to make sure the show was going to hold up, and it clearly has. We wanted to wait until it was completely proven, so there's really no fear about overexposure."

"Deal" is executive produced by Scott St. John.
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