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'Good Wife' Joins Nouveau Riche By Marrying Broadcast, Cable and SVOD

Drama’s multiplatform syndication deal sets precedent 3/18/2013 12:01:00 AM Eastern

In a syndication first, subscription video-ondemand
(SVOD) services drove CBS’ new $2 million-per-episode deal for The Good Wife, with more traditional
cable and broadcast outlets preferring to pay less
and wait longer to debut the network drama.

“Timing is everything,” says Scott Koondel, CBS Corp.
chief content licensing officer. “This puts The Good Wife
in an exclusive club with shows such as The Mentalist,
Hawaii Five-0 and NCIS: LA. It just got there differently.”

SVOD Services Change
The Syndie Off-Network Game

Without SVOD services in the mix, CBS would not
have been able to achieve near the pricing that it could
get once players such as Amazon, Hulu and Netflix came
to the table. Not long ago, a family-oriented drama such
as The Good Wife, even though it’s also a legal procedural,
had little value in off-network syndication. It would
have sold only in all-barter weekend deals to broadcast
TV stations and gone to a cable network for less than
$500,000 an episode, and that’s estimating high.

The Good Wife
deal is an example of the important
role that SVOD players now play in TV economics, as
B&C reported in its Jan. 28 cover story, “NATPE 2013:
Are Happy Days Here Again?”

At around $2 million per episode, The Good Wife
joins such shows as Warner Bros.’ The Mentalist, which
went to TNT for an estimated $2 million-plus per episode,
and CBS’ NCIS: Los Angeles, which sold to USA
Network for a similar price in late 2009 for a fall 2011
debut. In April 2011, CBS sold Hawaii Five-0 to TNT
to premiere in fall 2014.

A drama like The Good Wife is perfect for SVOD services
and their binge viewers. SVOD services are ramping
up their libraries in a bid to win subscribers’ loyalty,
and distributors are happy to provide them their product—
at the right price.

In the case of The Good Wife, a premium was placed
on exclusivity, with Amazon paying extra to secure
the show’s first six-month window. Amazon especially
wanted the show because it had seen that its customers
frequently purchased its DVDs or episodes via Amazon’s
electronic sell-through business. That sort of data,
much like network TV ratings, is invaluable and serves
to pre-convince buyers of a TV show’s value.

The first three seasons of The Good Wife premiered on
Amazon Prime Instant Video on March 14 and will remain
exclusive to Amazon until September, when Hulu
Plus will start airing the show. According to sources,
Netflix was in the mix but wanted the show exclusively.
CBS ultimately decided that wasn’t the best play, but it
expects Netflix ultimately to pick up the show, sources
say. At presstime, executives at Amazon and Netflix had
not returned calls for comment.

On-Demand TV Drives Viewers
To Original Episodes

Besides the found money that SVOD services represent,
they also provide an invaluable marketing service
that networks cannot give themselves: They allow viewers
to catch up quickly on a show, driving viewers back
to the originating network.

That has been proven out in the success of such
shows as AMC’s The Walking Dead, now the most popular
series on television among adults 18-49, averaging
7.7 million viewers in that
demographic per episode;
and PBS’ Downton Abbey,
whose third-season finale
attracted 8.2 million
viewers. Both shows air
past seasons on Netflix, although
Downton will head
exclusively to Amazon at
the end of this year.

“We did a lot of research
on shows that air on
SVOD platforms,” Koondel
says. “We tracked what
happened when it went on
to SVOD, what happened
to its network ratings. We
have the luxury of looking
at a lot of research when
we put these deals together.”

Meanwhile, basic cable doesn’t get a crack at The
Good Wife
until next January, when Hallmark Channel
will start airing the show with no scheduling restrictions.
Hallmark, which bought the drama as part of its
original programming strategy, acquired exclusive basic
cable rights for the show. Hallmark will launch its first original series on June 1 with Debbie Macomber’s
Cedar Cove
, starring Andie McDowell. The network
will announce several more original series at its upfronts
this week.

Broadcast television, around which syndication once
revolved, will be the last guest to this party in September
2014, when The Good Wife comes to stations on
weekends in all-barter deals. Weekend hours are typically
sold to broadcast stations for barter-only. In fall
2014, The Good Wife will replace either CSI: Miami or
Criminal Minds—currently the third- and fourth-ranked
weekend hours in broadcast syndication—in TV stations’
weekend rotations.

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