Fox Sending its Wacky L.A.-Style Morning Program On National Test

Staff Reporter

The "Good Day L.A." Web site sums up how Fox executives must feel about introducing their wacky morning crew to other markets: "You never know what to expect from these guys and gals, and neither do we!"

The teasing and bantering that Steve Edwards, Dorothy Lucey and Jillian Barberie perform weekday mornings on KTTV-TV Channel 11 works well with L.A. viewers, especially younger ones among whom it is the No. 1 morning show. But starting Dec. 3, the trio's appeal will be tested with different audiences at Fox stations in Atlanta, Austin, Phoenix and St. Louis with the premiere of "Good Day Live."

"I can write the reviews already, 'Everything you hate about L.A. is on display,'" said Edwards, the television veteran known for playing the straight man for Lucey and Barberie. "The show is going, in essence, to be the same. It will be just as good or just as annoying as it is now."

Syndicator Twentieth Television will test the show for at least eight weeks in the five markets, including L.A. A company executive would not reveal specific financial information except to say "it's a test that costs into the millions of dollars." But the risks are relatively small compared to the potential gains.

"Good Day Live" will make use of the same personalities and set as "Good Day L.A.," which makes for fewer start-up costs. If successful, the show could bring in sizeable syndication dollars at a time when the daytime talk show sector is showing some wear.

The trial stations stand to gain a format that is especially popular with viewers 18-to-34-years-old, a much sought after demographic among advertisers. If "Good Day Live" doesn't do well, it can be pulled before the February sweeps period.

Broadening its appeal

Among the challenges is lightening up the L.A. flavor. To that end, "Good Day Live" will feature pieces by reporters in the test markets. Also, the often-vacuous approach to news may not play well in other more conservative markets.

"You have some interesting personalities on the show, which I think is a head-start, but the question is: Do they transcend Los Angeles?," said Carl Gottlieb, a veteran of local television news and now deputy director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a Washington think tank.

When "Good Day L.A." debuted in 1993, many considered it a ripoff of "The KTLA Morning News," a show that consistently beat "Good Day L.A." in the ratings for years. But KTTV scored a sweeps victory against KTLA in the November 2000 and May 2001 sweeps.

The show has since fallen to a 3.0 rating, which makes it the No. 4 morning show in L.A.

In moving to other markets, "Good Day Live" must work as more than a morning show, since it will air at different times in different cities. In L.A., it's on at 10 a.m. On KSAZ-TV Channel 10 in Phoenix, it's 11 a.m. Atlanta's WAGA-TV Channel 5 has it at 1 p.m.

"When we first started talking about it, I had natural concerns," said Robb Dalton, president of programming and production at Twentieth Television. "This is a show that people think of as an acquired taste...Will people get it? This is very irreverent and (with) these three, it's like no holds barred."

Dalton believes the mix of test markets will provide Fox with a good sense of whether "Good Day Live" can work as a nationally syndicated show.

"You could have a real temptation to pick the markets that you think it would be a slam dunk in," he said. We're not stacking the deck."

Gene McHugh, general manager of WAGA figured his station was chosen because Atlanta is a more youthful market. "It's going to be interesting to see whether our viewers will respond to the L.A. base," he said.

It's a good move for Fox to use KTTV to create a new show for other stations, added Gottlieb, a former Fox employee. "This is a bargain," he said.

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