Royal Treatment for Raymond
King World inks new deals with Fox, other groups
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/22/2004 7:00:00 PM
Broadcasters may love Raymond, but it's a pricey affair. Just as CBS begins potentially contentious and expensive negotiations with Ray Romano and Phil Rosenthal for another season of Everybody Loves Raymond, King World has been quietly signing up stations for round two of the off-net version.
Viacom owns CBS and King World. But having stations cough up $2.5 million to $3 million an episode to King World for another cycle of reruns doesn't mean CBS wants to shell out more for Raymond in prime time. On the other hand, their huge backend cut may tempt Romano and Rosenthal to pump out another 22 episodes.
Reports indicate that, if Romano and Rosenthal say yes to a ninth season, series star Romano wants $4 million an episode, more than double the $1.8 million per episode he makes now. The two already make millions on syndication, with Romano owning about 12.5% of the backend and Rosenthal as much as 30%.
Everybody Loves Raymond already costs CBS around $5.5 million per episode—not cheap but far from the $10 million per episode NBC paid for the 10th season of Friends. However, it's a serious jump from the less than $3 million CBS paid prior to this season.
Raymond was renewed on incumbent stations on Fox owned-and-operated stations, Viacom, Acme Communications, Pegasus, and Sinclair Broadcast Group; Sinclair is unclear if the show will air on new stations. Fox outbid Tribune in five markets for the hit comedy and reupped both Raymond and Sony's Seinfeld in the past two weeks.
"Last week's renewal of Seinfeld, one of our key building blocks, helps us in our duopoly," says Lachlan Murdoch, chairman of the Fox Television Stations. "Our strategy behind the Raymond acquisition is two-pronged: to add more A-list product to our sitcom arsenal while shifting market share significantly." Specifically, Murdoch wants to grab market share away from Tribune, Fox's main competitor.
Fox renewed Seinfeld on all 19 of its O&O stations, with double runs of the show continuing through March 2011. Raymond was renewed on the same terms on three Fox incumbents—WUTB Baltimore, WTTG Washington, and KMSP Minneapolis—and will start on WNYW New York, KTTV Los Angeles, WFLD Chicago, KDFW Dallas, and KRIV Houston in 2008. Raymond's second cycle will go for 51/2 years, until September 2014.
Many of Fox's TV stations are weak, especially in New York. Having strong off-net sitcoms in access time slots can improve a station's prime time performance: It brings viewers in early, then keeps them for the rest of the night.
"Anytime you can have three of the top four sitcoms, it has to improve the situation," says Bill Carroll, vice president, programming, Katz Television Group Programming, referring to Seinfeld, Raymond, The Simpsons, and Friends. "The Fox O&Os have become more aggressive, making every effort to guarantee their potential success through the next five years."
Who says you can't buy love?
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