Caroline Rhea the perfect shoe in for Rosie ?
With "Rosie O'Donnell" gone, Disney and Warners are gambling on expensive replacements.
Disney's Wayne Brady-led variety show and Warners' "The Caroline Rhea Show" are stumbling over each other for a shot at carrying "Rosie's" torch.
Both shows, which will likely cost $20 million each in their first seasons, came relatively late to the marketplace, after many plum time periods were gobbled up.
While Warners anointed Rhea its choice to continue the "Rosie" legacy, Disney, which owns many of those time periods, had other ideas.
Under the gun to claim the "Rosie" slots on a number of ABC-owned TV stations, Buena Vista TV, Disney's syndic unit, developed "Wayne" with the co-owned stations expressly for those time periods.
The end of Rosie marks the first opportunity for BVT to develop a program for ABC stations since the companies were aligned in the mid-1990s. The ABC stations have had no need for anything new in years.
Meanwhile, Warners needs to maintain the time periods and marketplace leverage "Rosie's" slots represent for a company that has no co-owned stations.
The ABC stations have made deals to carry both shows come fall, but it's unclear if both will make it to air.
Among the challenges facing the Brady project: BVT is employing a cash-only, slow rollout launch.
It will debut the show only on the ABC stations and selected markets where it can land on top stations and time periods, and will not collect national barter ad revs against the production cost.
Disney defends the slow
rollout as a way to incubate the show on a strong platform, then go back to
the marketplace and line up deals as the show takes off.
But ABC stations in Los Angeles and Chicago do not have "Rosie" -- and therefore do not have daytime periods available.
Unless the station group allows BVT to find a better timeslot on non-ABC stations in those markets, "Wayne" will air in the less-viewed latenight in two of the top three U.S. markets.
"Caroline," which Warners has been pitching since early last year, is cleared on stations on a cash-plus-barter basis repping coverage of more than 70% of the country.
However, as part of the deal with the ABC stations, Warners gave up 50% of the show's backend to ABC. So if "Caroline" works and Warners finds itself in the black, it will be half as much.
"ABC got themselves
a great deal, and at the end of the day, that deal might be worth somebody
at ABC saying, `Why spend $20 million on "Wayne" when we can get
profit from 50% of "Caroline" and not spend a dime"
Caroline Rhea, please enter stage left..