By ERIC DEGGANS
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 2, 2001
TAMPA -- Even if all they were doing was a typical midday talk show, the producers of WFLA-Ch. 8's new project, Daytime, would have their hands full.
Beginning at 11 a.m. Aug. 13, Daytime will replace WFLA's midday news report, offering a mix of talk, performances and feature segments familiar to morning TV fans. But it's airing against two better-known shows -- ABC's The View and CBS's The Price Is Right. And its hosts are relatively unfamiliar to area viewers.
One more thing: Some guests on each show will have paid the show for the privilege. So when viewers see a representative from stockbrokers Robert W. Baird & Co. discussing finance on the show's "Money Monday" segments, it won't necessarily be because the person is telegenic or knowledgeable.
Producers say they're using this twist on the old "infomercial" format to pull in more revenue.
"We're not making a news product and we're not pretending it's news," said Steve DeGregorio, a former TV news executive at WFLA who is executive producer of Daytime. "We're not yet comfortable with doing this. It's our challenge to make it valuable (to viewers) and get the message out for advertisers."
In early planning for Daytime, there was talk that news anchor Gayle Guyardo would be co-host and synergy partner the Tampa Tribune might contribute (WFLA, the Tribune and TBO.com are all owned by Media General). But now that some content will be paid, news executives are leery, DeGregorio said.
There will be news updates during the show, but WFLA news director Forrest Carr insists the breaks will be clearly defined to viewers.
Still, he acknowledges some viewers may confuse Daytime with a news show (journalists usually are ethically barred from accepting money in exchange for news coverage; Daytime will be produced outside WFLA's news department). "Our TV station is called Newschannel 8," Carr added. "I don't know what the show will look like, myself."
Prices range from $1,500 for a one-time, three-minute segment to $80,000 for a 13-week package that includes five-minute Daytime segments each week, a full-page Tribune advertisement touting the appearance and promotional spots on TBO.com, according to Joe Pomilla, WFLA director of sales.
The show may also offer 2 minute, live commercials read by the hosts. DeGregorio said Daytime will likely notify viewers of who paid for inclusion through a notice in its closing credits.
"You're controlling the message," said Andy Hirsch, Southeast regional director for Robert W. Baird. "It's a powerful medium that people will gravitate toward."
Until this year, WFTS-Ch. 28's Tampa Bay Taste Tour show only featured restaurants that had paid for inclusion; in the mid 1990s, WTVT-Ch. 13 had a similar show called Tampa Bay's Talking. Such advertorial deals also kept WFLA's low-rated Harris & Co. midday TV show on the air until late last year.
On a national level, ABC News anchor Barbara Walters endured widespread criticism in December when her talk show, The View, featured paid endorsements for Campbell's soup woven into the show's regular host banter.
So instead of using WFLA news talent, Daytime will feature Home Shopping Network anchor Tracy Edwards and ex-Fox Sports Net anchor Brian Fasulo as hosts.
Still DeGregorio acknowledges some viewers may be turned off by such advertorial content.
"We're trying to do two things here (advertising and entertainment)," the producer said, adding that Daytime will showcase "soft news" subjects such as arts, food, health and home improvements. "We don't know if it's going to work."