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Syndicators Are Still Bullish on Off-Net

1/04/2004 07:00:00 PM Eastern

The off-net pipeline continues to thin, with only five shows coming to syndication next fall. Even so, several syndicators will be spending much of their time at NATPE focusing on their off-net sales, including NBC Enterprises with Fear Factor
for fall 2004, King World with the second cycle of Everybody Loves Raymond, Buena Vista with According to Jim
for 2006 and Twentieth with Yes, Dear
for next fall.

Besides Yes, Dear, Twentieth is launching Malcolm in the Middle
in fall 2004, and that show is cleared in 95% of the country. Twentieth also has The Bernie Mac Show
ready to go for 2005.

Twentieth decided to launch Yes, Dear
next fall when it looked at the marketplace and realized that 2005 was crowded, with Bernie Mac, Buena Vista's My Wife and Kids, HBO's Sex and the City
and Paramount's One on One.

In addition, CBS bolstered Yes, Dear
this fall by putting it in the Monday-night kick-off position at 8 p.m. in place of King of Queens, which moved to Wednesdays at 9 p.m. Both have exceeded the network's expectations in their new time periods.

"The feeling was that, after CBS moved the show to lead off Monday nights, Yes,Dear
overcame all of the criticisms," says Bob Cook, president of Twentieth Television. "It had been in a protected time period, but, when it went out on its own, it proved it could kick-start a night. Every time it's been asked to perform, it's done really well."

Adds Paul Franklin, executive vice president and general sales manager for Twentieth, "In 2004, a lot of stations don't have a show to freshen up their sitcom blocks. There's a window of opportunity right now to take advantage of King of Queens' success." Sony's King of Queens
is showing steady results in its first year of syndication.

While Buena Vista's big first-run pitch at NATPE will be The Tony Danza Show, it's also focusing on According to Jim
for 2006 and will start to sell the show this summer. With sales for My Wife and Kids
in 2005 already completed and the show cleared in 90% of the country, the company is looking ahead.

"The pipeline is not flush with shows like Seinfeld
or Friends, but the reality marketplace is vibrant. That fact alone is eating up shelf space like crazy," says Lloyd Komesar, Buena Vista executive vice president of strategic research. "All that puts a premium on the shows that are real sitcoms with syndication potential."

Buena Vista thinks According to Jim, starring Jim Belushi, will be one of those rare syndicated shows to offer male-skewing audiences to advertisers. The show, which had been airing at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, now airs against NBC's Frasier
at 9 p.m. and is holding its own.

"When you look and see shows that are available in syndication, Jim
has to pop out," says Janice Marinelli, president of Buena Vista. "It has all the markings for success in syndication."

King World, which distributes many of syndication's biggest shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Dr. Phil, Inside Edition, Wheel of Fortune
and Jeopardy, will have no new first-run shows at NATPE this year but will be selling the second cycle of Everybody Loves Raymond. The sitcom is expected to easily top $1 billion in syndie revenues.

King World expects to be active at NATPE. Says President of Domestic Sales Joe DiSalvo, "I get to see all the clients that I don't get to see over the course of the year and then get started on doing some renewals."

King World plans to make a big splash at NATPE, returning to the show floor, bringing the cast of Raymond, and, for top clients, throwing a private dinner party featuring the band Fleetwood Mac.

In past years, there have been at least one or two hour shows going into broadcast syndication for weekends. This year, there are none.

NBC Enterprises'FearFactor, the first prime time reality show to be offered for broadcast syndication from one of the Big Four broadcast networks, is being sold as a one-hour strip, with 88 episodes available by the end of this season.

The advantage of a show like Fear Factor
is that it appeals to the increasingly hard-to-reach male 18-34 demographic and to young audiences in general. NBC plans to sell the show first to cable and then take it to stations.

"The pipeline is thin for off-net," says NBC Enterprises President Ed Wilson. "The cable networks are buying more and more off-net, and, for the past five or 10 years, cable has been buying more and more dramas."

That lack of scripted product also may heighten Fear Factor's value, Wilson says. It will serve as sort of a model for syndicating reality shows, although Fear Factor
is unique among reality shows with its closed-ended format. In each episode, the contestants complete a set of challenges, and one wins the game. The competition doesn't continue through several episodes, culminating in a big finale.

Paramount has sold UPN's Girlfriends
in double-runs in about 72% of the country, says John Nogawski, president of Paramount Domestic Television. The syndicator also is selling One and One, one of Girlfriend's companion shows on UPN, for 2005.

What's Coming In Off-Net TV
Here are the shows the major studios will offer in the next few years
Show Syndicator Type Terms Launch
TBA = to be announced
*Also available as a weekend hour.
According to Jim Buena Vista half-hour sitcom cash + barter Fall 2006
Alias Buena Vista weekend hour barter only Fall 2005
Bernie Mac Twentieth half-hour sitcom cash + barter Fall 2005
Fear Factor NBC Enterprises hour strip TBD Fall 2004
George Lopez Warner Bros. half-hour sitcom cash + barter Fall 2005
Girlfriends Paramount half-hour strip cash + barter Fall 2004
Grounded for Life Carsey-Werner half-hour sitcom cash + barter Fall 2005
Malcolm Twentieth half-hour strip cash + barter Fall 2004
My Wife and Kids Buena Vista half-hour sitcom cash + barter Fall 2005
One on One Paramount half-hour sitcom cash + barter Fall 2005
Reba Twentieth half-hour sitcom TBA Fall 05 or 06
Sex and the City HBO half-hour sitcom cash + barter Fall 2005
24 Twentieth weekend hour TBA Fall 2005
Twilight Zone New Line half-hour strip* barter only Fall 2004
Yes, Dear Twentieth half-hour strip cash + barter Fall 2004
March