NBC Uni stations fill in 'Crosswords'


Syndicated game show "Let's Play Crosswords" has been cleared on five major-market stations owned by NBC Universal.

Program Partners, Merv Griffin Entertainment and WMA said Tuesday that the half-hour show, set to launch as a strip in the fall, has been cleared by NBC-owned stations in New York (WNBC), Los Angeles (KNBC), Chicago (WMAQ), San Francisco (KNTV) and Dallas (KXAS) "as part of a comprehensive commitment by the stations group."

"We really wanted to focus on the quality of stations, regardless of where they were," said Josh Raphaelson, who founded Program Partners with Ritch Colbert. "With these stations, I don't know if we could have done any better, and we're excited about that. With NBC making a very strong commitment, that steps things up a bit, which is great."

"Crosswords," which is being produced in high-definition, features contestants answering questions with words that solve a crossword in order to win the game and become a returning champion.

The deal with the NBC stations calls for two episodes of the show to air in an hourlong block. The time periods have yet to be determined, but it's likely the show will end up in daytime or early fringe slots.

The agreement also provides 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 NBC stations' Web sites. Raphaelson and Colbert said the deal includes one minute of national advertising time and six minutes local per each half-hour episode.

"The NBC Universal stations are an ideal launch platform for 'Let's Play Crosswords,' " Colbert added. "We look forward to partnering with NBC to ensure the success of this series."

Additionally, the parties are continuing to explore an opportunity to produce the series at NBC-owned facilities at WMAQ.

Said Steve Schwaid, senior vp news and programming at NBC Universal Television Stations: "Merv Griffin is the master of the game show genre, and we're excited about the addition of 'Let's Play Crosswords' to our program schedules this fall."

"Crosswords" is owned equally by Program Partners, Merv Griffin Entertainment and WMA.