Staff Reporter

On paper, Roseanne's new syndicated talk show sounded like a delicious deal so tempting when it was pitched earlier this year that it set off bidding wars among competing stations and was touted as one of the fastest-selling daytime shows in syndication history.

Today, it runs on 150 stations covering 93 percent of the country considered a high penetration rate for a syndicated program.

But in the TV business, perception has a habit of failing to meet reality. Roseanne has not done well in the ratings, prompting insiders to speculate that she will soon join the likes of Magic Johnson, Chevy Chase and other personalities who have fallen on their faces in the cut-throat TV talk game.

"They have a month to turn it around and see some growth," said Dick Kurlander, vice president and director of programming for New York-based Petry Television Inc., a company that advises stations on what shows to buy. "If it doesn't turn around, the show could be off by February or March."

Not so, said Andy Friendly, president of first-run programming at King World Productions Inc., which produces "Roseanne." "We are very sanguine about the show," he said. "It hasn't found an audience yet, but this is a marathon and not a sprint."

King World is no doubt motivated. "Roseanne" is not cheap to produce, particularly because of the salary demands of its high-profile star, who reportedly was paid $8 million up front plus a percentage of profits, valuable King World stock and perks like the use of a corporate jet.

Although stations made a two-year commitment to carry "Roseanne," King World could be forced to renegotiate its contracts if the show continues to tank perhaps by reducing the fees it charges. It might even have to cancel the show outright.

Moreover, many stations have the option to drop the show if it isn't meeting expectations.

"Most distributors don't want to saddle stations with a dud," said Garnett Losak, head of programming at New York-based Blair Television, which represents TV stations selling time to advertisers and recommends syndicated programming to its clients. "You want to replace a faltering show with something that has an upside."

Most of the stars who have failed with their own talk shows in recent years are celebrities who were highly in demand as guests on other people's talk shows. But a good guest doesn't always make a good host.

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