10:00am PT by Rick Porter
Will Packer-Produced Entertainment News Show Lands Trial Run on Fox Stations
Producer Will Packer and distributor Lionsgate's Debmar-Mercury are teaming for a syndicated entertainment-news show that will get a trial run on Fox stations in the fall.
The half-hour show, Central Ave., will be a "wide-reaching and multicultural entertainment news magazine" hosted by Julissa Bermurdez (BET's 106 & Park, Empire Girls) and five-time Olympic gold medalist Sanya Richards-Ross. Their pairing marks the first time that two women of color have co-hosted an entertainment-news show.
"Central Ave. will stand out in the newsmag space by presenting a unique first-person perspective on the culture-driving, trendsetting topics that mainstream audiences have a voracious appetite for," said Packer, the producer of Girls Trip and Night School. "Being fronted by fresh voices that happen to be diverse and female gives us license to do stories in a way no one else can."
The Atlanta-based show is set to premiere Nov. 4 on select Fox stations and will have an initial five-week run.
"We can't wait to work with someone this successful who, when you ask how many syndicated strips they’ve worked on before, the answer is 'none,'" said Frank Cicha, executive vp programming for Fox Television Stations. "I have to believe we're going to get something fresh here. Will Packer doesn’t know what he can’t do in this space. That, to me, is invigorating."
Fox stations have for several years experimented with shorter-run syndicated shows; the group also has talk shows hosted by RuPaul and Jerry O'Connell on tap for three-week runs in the summer. The strategy, Cicha told The Hollywood Reporter, allows for distributors to give potential national launches a trial run while also providing more original programming for local stations when there might otherwise be repeats.
As linear ratings for broadcast decline, station groups are also on the lookout for shows that deliver the feel of live programming, a la entertainment-news standard-bearer Entertainment Tonight or the more tabloid-focused TMZ. There's also a potential opening in the marketplace with the recent cancellation of Page Six TV.
Will Packer Media and Debmar-Mercury will co-produce Central Ave. Packer, Kelly Smith and showrunner Monique Chenault are executive producers.