In a syndication deal with a novel twist, Fox and Warner Bros. have reached multi-year renewals for Extra, TMZ, TMZ Live and The Real, with new formatting that eliminates the commercial breaks at the end of the shows.
The hope is that by adjusting when the ad breaks come — in a way that preserves the net amount of advertising but avoids cutting away at the end of a programming block — both business partners will see viewership stay healthy. The final 90 seconds to two minutes of the block will be programming, not advertising, with some efforts to specifically have one show toss to the other, a common practice in cable TV.
Jack Abernethy, CEO, Fox Television Stations, told Deadline in an interview that the move emulates a shift he helped steer in his previous role at Fox overseeing the launch of Fox News Channel in the mid-1990s.
“The worst thing about these transitions is when you start signaling ‘program over, program over’ – that’s when people grab the remote,” he said. He said the move was a “common-sense” one that was long overdue in local broadcasting.
“Fox has offered unparalleled promotional and programming support for our series,” said Jeffrey Schlesinger, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Television Distribution, “and we are very pleased these long-running franchises will continue to thrive on their stations, and even more so as a result of this new seamless format.”
The new setup will require some adjustments by both the sales and programming teams. Abernethy said early feedback in the ad community has been positive. Some programmers have raised concerns about having to fit extra spots in elsewhere in the half-hour or hour. “You have a little more clutter,” Abernethy shrugged, but argued that the likely improved retention between shows more than makes up for that risk.
Extra has been a particularly noteworthy show, as it shifted its station deal from NBC to Fox and installed longtime Access Hollywood veteran Billy Bush as its main host. The show is now in its 26th season. Bush had been on the sidelines after a turbulent 2016 that saw him caught up in the Donald Trump/Access Hollywood scandal.
“We like the new show,” Abernethy said of Extra. “Under the new Fox, we have a need for live news and sports, so this fits what we do in the station group. … Billy’s been very good. He’s really good without a script or a prompter.
TMZ is now in its 12th season, with TMZ Live and The Real seven and six seasons in, respectively.
Along with the renewals, Fox said The People’s Court has been cleared for three seasons on the company’s flagship station, WNYW (Fox 5) in New York.
Donna Redier Linsk, EVP & GM of Telepictures said she is “very proud of the team at Extra whose reimagining of a long-running franchise has been so justly rewarded.”
Lisa Gregorisch-Dempsey, Senior Executive Producer of Extra, said the show has never had a better partner than Fox. “We are incredibly proud of Extra, which has not only earned a second life, but this new chapter feels like we caught lightning in a bottle,” she said.
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