Tribune looking to get back into syndication


Tribune Television is shooting a pilot with controversial Tampa-based syndicated radio host Bubba The Love Sponge later this month and moving forward on another TV project with WLW-AM Cincinnati talk host Bill Cunningham. Tribune Television President of Programming Sean Compton says either or both could get the company back into the syndication business, although at this point they are still at the pilot stage.

As first reported Thursday by Broadcasting & Cable, the Bubba pilot will be shot the weekend of June 19-20. Bubba, who ran under his legal name of Todd Clem as the 2004 Democratic Party candidate for Sheriff of Pinellas County, Florida, will be traveling to Chicago to shoot the pilot at the WGN-TV studios. Bubba’s syndicated radio show originates from Cox Media’s WHPT-FM and he also does an uncensored show on Sirius XM satellite radio.

Compton told RBR-TVBR that the format for the Bubba show would be a “conflict talk style program” with “controversial guests.”

Farther along is the Cunningham project. While early reports said that Cunningham’s long-time friend Jerry Springer would also be involved, Compton told us that Springer is not part of the show. Tribune is now preparing to shoot more pilots with Cunningham.

“These are pilots. Assuming we like what we see we’d pick up one or both of the shows,” Compton said on Thursday. “Bill Cunningham’s show is the first show we are shooting. Cunningham has already shot one of his five pilots and did an amazing job,” he added.

Once a syndication powerhouse, Tribune got out of the business a number of years back. It even sold its LA studio complex after Sam Zell took over the company. Now, the company is preparing to jump back into syndication.

“We are hoping to be in the original production business with some daytime and late night shows. Our daytime lineup is strong with NBC-owned Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos and Maury Povich. There are a lot of hours in daytime, we hope to have a show or two that sits next to our existing shows,” Compton said of the Tribune strategy for the syndication business.

RBR-TVBR observation: To anyone who scoffs at the idea of finding major national talent in Tampa or Cincinnati, we would remind you that Glenn Beck was a radio talk host in Tampa and both Phil Donahue and Jerry Springer were launched from Cincinnati.