Stations fill in 'Crosswords'

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Upcoming game show "Let's Play Crosswords" has been cleared in more than 65% of the country for its fall launch in syndication.

Program Partners, Merv Griffin Entertainment and WMA said the half-hour strip has been cleared in 30 of the top 40 markets on stations from such groups as the NBC O&Os, Belo, Clear Channel, Cox, Gannett, Gray, Hubbard, McGraw-Hill, Pegasus, Raycom, Scripps-Howard, Sinclair, Sunbeam, Tribune and Young. The companies said the deals ensure a "firm go" for the 2007-08 season.

Stations signing on to carry the show include WHDH/WLVI Boston, WXIA/WATL Atlanta, KTVK/KASW Phoenix, KING/KONG Seattle, KSTP/KSTC Minneapolis, WOIO/WUAB Cleveland, KUSA/KTVD Denver, WFTV/WRDQ Orlando, KTXL Sacramento, KPLR St. Louis, WPXI Pittsburgh, WTTV/WXIN Indianapolis, WCNC Charlotte, N.C., KGTV San Diego, WTIC/WTXX Hartford-New Haven, Conn., WLFL/WRDC Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and WZTV/WUXP Nashville.

"What you're seeing here is a flight to quality," said Ritch Colbert, who founded Program Partners with Josh Raphaelson. "The response of top-shelf stations to 'Let's Play Crosswords' has been overwhelming and a statement of the high regard they have for Merv Griffin, his incredible track record and this exciting new show."

The news follows the recent announcement that Program Partners had cleared "Crosswords" on the NBC owned-and-operated stations in New York (WNBC), Los Angeles (KNBC), Chicago (WMAQ), San Francisco (KNTV) and Dallas (KXAS) as part of a comprehensive NBC commitment to the project. That agreement called for NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution to represent national barter advertising sales and for the parties to jointly develop a broadband offering that will launch from the stations' Web sites.

Griffin, creator and producer of game shows "Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune," is said to be a big fan of crossword puzzles.

"My challenge was to translate this satisfying pursuit into an entertaining television game," he said. "I couldn't ask for a better endorsement than these early commitments from so many major stations."

It's understood that the show is being targeted primarily for daytime and early fringe slots. Each half-hour episode of "Crosswords," which will be produced in high-definition, includes one minute of national advertising time and six minutes local.
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