On the Lookout For the Next 'Big Bang'New surge of comedies puts off-net market in rare orbit 1/09/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
In primetime, 2011 was the
year of the comedy, with several
shows—CBS’ 2 Broke Girls, Fox’s
New Girl, NBCU’s Up All Night and
ABC’s Last Man Standing, Suburgatory
and Happy Endings—looking primed
to enjoy long runs in primetime and be
ready for syndication come 2015.
“We have a good year with great
potential,” says Bill Carroll, VP, director of
programming for Katz Television Group.
For syndicators, the big question is
what will be the next Big Bang Theory,
which has overtaken Warner Bros.’ Two
and A Half Men, its sitcom sibling, as
syndication’s top off-network comedy.
For the first time in years, there are a
lot of contenders. The top six scripted
shows on television among primetime’s
key demographic of adults 18-49 are
comedies, and seven of the top 10 are
Season to date, ABC’s Modern Family
and CBS’ Two and a Half Men are virtually
tied for first at a 5.7 rating in the
demo, according to Nielsen Media Research.
CBS’ Big Bang Theory, which just
launched this season to big ratings in
syndication, is in third at a 4.9, followed
by 2 Broke Girls at a 4.5, CBS’ How I Met
Your Mother at a 4.2 and CBS’ Mike &
Molly at a 4.0. Fox’s New Girl is in eighth
at a 3.8, just behind CBS’ NCIS at a 4.0.
Among the other rookies, Happy Endings
ranks 18th at a 3.1, with Suburgatory
right behind at a 3.0. Tim Allen’s Last
Man Standing ranks 26th at 2.8, although
among total viewers it’s 21st, averaging a
bit more than 10 million viewers.
Modern Family, distributed by Twentieth
Television, premieres on broadcast
and USA Network in fall 2013. Since
it sold at Big Bang-level prices, expectations
for the Emmy darling are high.
Both shows sold in spring and summer
of 2010 at approximately $2.5 million
per episode in license fees for their
combined broadcast and cable runs.
After that, all eyes are on Mike &
Molly, the third sitcom to be produced
by Warner Bros. and Chuck Lorre, the
team behind Two and a Half Men and
The Big Bang Theory.
Warner Bros. has not yet said when
it will take Mike & Molly out for sale,
but if the way it handled The Big Bang
Theory is any precedent, the studio will
take its time and try to strike when its
ratings are hottest. Both of Lorre’s other
two hit sitcoms were slow-burners, taking
a couple of years to really hit their
stride, and Mike & Molly is likely to be
Mike & Molly has quite a bit going
for it. The show has moved up eight
places—from 14th to sixth—in the
adults 18-49 rankings between its first
and second seasons. It has a solid slot
on CBS’ unstoppable Monday night
lineup, which boasts four of the top
six scripted shows in primetime among
adults 18-49. And its star, Melissa Mc-
Carthy, is on a hot streak, winning the
best-actress Emmy for her starring role
as the show’s Molly Flynn, and her
breakout turn in the box-office smash
“I think Mike & Molly will do quite
well in syndication,” says Chuck Larsen,
president of television distribution consulting
firm October Moon Television.
“It will be riding on the coattails of Two
and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory.
If you are a TV station that owns one or
both of those shows, you’ll want Mike
Headed into this month’s NATPE
convention in Miami Beach, Warner
Bros. is focusing its efforts on The
Middle, which stars Patricia Heaton and
performs solidly as ABC’s Wednesdaynight
opener at a 2.9 among adults
18-49, ranking 22nd in the demo and
25th among total viewers with nearly
9.3 million viewers in its third season.
“The Middle continues to grow every
year,” says Ken Werner, president
of Warner Bros. Domestic
“It’s a good
family sitcom that’s
compatible with Modern
The Middle is targeted
to premiere in
syndication in 2013,
in what could be a
crowded year for offnet
Family is sold, and
five other shows are
expected to launch that year: CTD’s Hot
in Cleveland, Twentieth’s The Cleveland
Show, NBCU’s Parks & Recreation and Sony’s
Community. CTD, NBCU and Sony
are all in the market with their shows.
Mike & Molly might have some advantage
in debuting in syndication a
year later since 2014’s offerings look
to be few, with only Mike & Molly and
Twentieth’s Raising Hope slated to open.
Then, in 2015, the slate gets crowded
again, assuming this season’s hot comedies
“There are 24 sitcoms on the air right
now,” says Larsen, “so fi ve new sitcoms
coming out is not a big number. Stations
always need them to be refreshed.”
In fact 2012 also will be a slow year
for off-network sitcoms, with only Sony’s
Rules of Engagement and Debmar-
Mercury’s off-TBS Are We There Yet?
scheduled to premiere. “ is a low
point for off-net sitcoms, historically
speaking,” Larsen says.