ABC Studios Shopping 'Reaper' to Stations

Originals could be headed to CW affiliates for Sunday nights

Posted at 6:59 a.m. ET

ABC Studios wants to produce original episodes of Reaper, an hour-long dramedy, to syndicate to CW affiliates for Sunday nights, several sources confirmed.

ABC Studios has pitched the idea to stations, who say they're interested in the show if the terms are right. That means all-barter deals and scheduling flexibility, although the show would be intended for 7 or 8 p.m.

A CW spokesperson declined to comment on the talks, the presence of which would indicate the show would not be returning to the network's lineup.

Earlier this month, The CW said it was in advanced talks with key affiliates about returning Sunday nights from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. to stations. (See related story, "The CW Getting Out of Sunday Business")

The show that stations would get would be different from the primetime version. Reaper's two creators and showrunners--Michelle Fazekas and Tara Butters--have left ABC Studios and signed a new deal with Twentieth Century Fox, so the studio would need to bring on new executive producers. And one of the show's stars, Tyler Labine, has signed to star in Fox's Sons of Tucson this fall, although sources say he's in second position on that show, meaning he would have to return to Reaper if a syndication deal went forward.

Reaper stars Bret Harrison as an average Joe who learns he must fight demons as part of a deal his mother made with the devil in order to conceive him. Labine plays his best friend and fellow demon-fighter. The show opened in fall 2007 with buzz and decent ratings, but its ratings had tapered off by the end of this season. The CW moved Reaper around its schedule a fair amount, its run was interrupted by the writer's strike and its season-two return was delayed, making it hard for viewers to find the show, which now airs Tuesdays at 8.

Reaper would appeal to CW affiliates because it offers them a first-run, original program with a primetime feel. Other than Reaper, CW affiliates have limited options when it comes to programming Sunday nights this fall. Most off-net programming is already sold to other stations and cable networks for different dayparts, and those deals prohibit opening new Sunday-night windows for those shows.

One off-net hour that could air on Sunday nights in some markets is Twentieth's Bones, which Tribune has purchased in seven of the top 30 markets for weekend runs. Other syndicators are asking Tribune and other station groups to move their weekend shows into Sunday-night slots.

Many stations immediately picked up a movie package from MGM, which The CW has already been airing, on an all-barter basis. "That was a two-minute conversation," said one station source. Last week, MGM said that movie package--which includes Legally Blonde and James Bond films--was cleared in 65% of the country.

For the most part, syndicators say providing programs for those Sunday nights is a good--but not great--business opportunity. Says one syndication executive: "It will make it easier to clear movies or weekly shows. It's not game-changing, but it's helpful."